Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Christopher Bursk: Nor are we fit to force our way across

Aeneid, Book V, John Dryden, tr.

Because the first symptoms are a dry cough

I started coughing

three days ago

and because sore throat proves one of the early warning signs

I’ve kept swallowing

to see if my throat hurts

till now it does

and because chills often accompany the virus

I find myself shivering

so I run baths hot enough

to burn away the fever

though every time I take my temperature

it reads 97.7

so I suspect the thermometer

of lying and make everywhere I am a bed

and the cats lie down next to me

as if they know

I am dying though I show no signs of expiring

yet—except this

24-hour exhaustion, every cell in me tired

of what it knows

will be asked of it, every muscle clenching

for the onslaught. I keep closing my eyes

as I did as a child

when what I’d always feared would happen

happened and I knew,

seeing the ambulance drive away with my mother,

it was my fault

and so I kept taking naps

when I wasn’t even sleepy

and then waking up

suddenly—as if to catch time off-guard.

I still shut my eyes

any moment I can

because so many of those I love are already sick

and I don’t know why

I am not

and there’s nothing I can do

to change that

and very little I can do to help anyone

and when I was a child

I wanted with all my heart to be the one

to suffer, and, at the same time, I must confess

I wanted, with all my heart,

not to suffer.


From With Aeneas in a Time of Plague by Christopher Bursk (Ragged Sky, 2021). Copyright Christopher Bursk. 

Christopher Bursk (1943-2021) was an American poet, professor and activist. He was the author of nine poetry collections, including The First Inhabitants of Arcadia published by the University of Arkansas Press (2006), praised by The New York Times which said, “Bursk writes with verve and insight about child rearing, aging parents, sexuality, his literary heroes, the sexuality of his literary heroes.”

Alexandre Ubeleski: Aeneas and Anchises in Hades. (Polish, 17th century; Wikimedia Commons)

One comment on “Christopher Bursk: Nor are we fit to force our way across

  1. Barbara Huntington
    August 3, 2021

    As I attempt and fail to get up the energy to take Tashi for a walk, I wonder how many of us feel this way. I tell my doc she can look for horses and I will look for zebras, but there have been tests and I do not have Covid or Lyme but there is no energy and I sleep for hours in the afternoon and have no trouble sleeping at night and is this all in my head?

    Like

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