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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,
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.”