Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Christopher Bursk: The Plague in Early Spring

In these early weeks of the pandemic, landscaping

crews have been busy cutting away rotting branches.

—Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23, 2020

The first week in the first year of the plague,

when we told ourselves there was no plague,

the flowers were more than willing

to confirm our opinion.

The second week of the plague

we were careful to remind ourselves

we did not have any symptoms

and only the old and infirm had to worry,

and the trees offered themselves

as emblems of how perhaps even such culling was natural.

The fifth week of the plague

we flung open windows

and dared the virus to break into our houses,

some of us even tempted to embrace the fever

and get it over with.

The sixth week of the plague

we started hating tulips and daffodils

for flaunting themselves just outside our windows

as if there were no such thing as a plague.

And the trees?

What high and mighty airs they still put on!

Our children convince us now that they’re dying

of boredom, glare at us

as if it’s our fault that we were all born

a lower evolutionary organism susceptible to disease.

Whole families stand at the windows

and wait for something terrible to happen

to the oblivious lilies of the valley,

complacent gladioli.

Today we hate wren and chickadee most of all.

It’s not just that they come and go

as they please. It’s their melodies old as Homer we resent.


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, activist, and  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.”

Gladioli

2 comments on “Christopher Bursk: The Plague in Early Spring

  1. Barbara Huntington
    September 7, 2021

    A different view than mine, but I get it. As I rehunker down, I thank the Napoleon hummer, the Baja Fairy Dusters, the trees and birds and butterflies that allow me to survive in not quite solitude.

    Liked by 1 person

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