The Poet and the Plague

The Poet and the Plague

At the still point of this turning world

Stood before the great mystery
the poet calls life,
she senses something approaching,
which, as it draws nearer
the poet realises, is the plague.
Thrown into turmoil,
she tries hard to cut and run,
but the plague seizes her.

What is rejected will be poured into us

Take me on your shoulders,
carry me everywhere you go,
I will not infect you
of that I promise,
yet I will destroy the lives of others.
You must not miss a street
or a cul-de-sac, where
people gather, take me there.

Not knowing its name we call it Destiny

The poet refuses
and, with all her strength,
frogmarches the plague
indoors, where she will stay,
locked down, until mid-summer.
Behind the glass door
she knows she must wait
until this bitter season passes.

As we tremble with choices, known & unknown

In self-isolation, as the poet
lifts her pen to meet new life,
she notices her body
reflects the climate catastrophe
taking place in the world.
For her fever, cough and tears
mirror many a raging fire,
drought and devastating flood.

Trusting the death life will bring to us

She dreams of two gluttonous gods
feeding each other,
thriving together, side by side,
both wreaking havoc
on her body and Mother Earth.
With eyes wet with tears
her words wash away,
until the poet writes herself anew.

Earth, my love, we pray for your recovery

In the kitchen garden she plants
seed after seed after seed,
until the deeper Truth takes root
and regeneration arrives
in her quiet, quarantined life.
Formless yet complete,
the world as she knows it
has already gone.

If we do not, this plague will be fated to return

As the plague tries to gain freedom
the poet guards the door,
watching her shadow lengthen
while the dancers of death
threaten to break every window.
Deep in the dark, she recalls
the last family supper
she didn’t realise she was having.

Until we study the dark & learn its language

In grief she opens a window
to share her poem with the world,
yet, as the light rushes in,
the plague nails her to the door
and crowns her in thorns.
The old ways have broken down,
her resurrection will come
but first, the gathering of bones.


Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2020
(My italicized lines can be read as a
poem within a poem or extra verse).

26 thoughts on “The Poet and the Plague

  1. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? It’s bleak, powerfully evoking the seriousness of the moment. I’m glad you’ve written it: I’m glad I’ve read it.

    1. Thank you so much Cath for your encouraging response to my self-isolating poem! No, there’ll be no happy ending in which we’ll live happily ever after, only weeks, months, perhaps even years of slow and steady restructuring to come … hopefully for the better! Blessings always, Deborah.

  2. I hardly know what to say, Deborah. This brings me to the heart of this secluded time as I read two interwoven poems in two voices, perfectly interspersed and playing off each other. The praying poet who already knows the lesson and stands at the still point and the woman, also the poet, facing the plague, gathering herself, and finding a way through this unknown darkness that changes everything for all of us.

    I’ve been thinking of the repressed God Pan in the pandemic, pandemonium, panic, and how he is a shadow, hidden side of the Green Man. As this darkness and chaos descend, the Green Man rises (in the northern hemisphere), the bluebirds and tree swallows arrive to claim their nesting boxes, and the first flowers bloom. The pull of the opposites is overwhelming much of the time, but I’m grateful to be able to be in nature. I’m grateful to have you as a friend of the heart. Thank you, Deborah. I will read this poem many many times before I “get” it. You’re a mistress of mysticism and soul.

    1. Oh Elaine, how you’ve fired my imagination today as I slip the “Two Poet’s” (known & unknown) into a dark drawer as I recognise the seed of a future poem when I hear it. Makes me think of Kahlo’s “Two Frida’s” painting and my imagination runs wild! Thank you so much Elaine for your beautiful, heartfelt comment which has brightened up my grey day. You read me well. Yes, both voices vied for attention and were having a tête-à-tête amongst themselves.

      I think you’re onto something there with “Pan” being the dark side of the Green Man and how he’s putting in an appearance, most especially with the pan-ic of the pan-demic! Thank you for sharing your deep mythical knowledge as it encourages me to look closer into his mythology.

      That you consider me a “friend of the heart” illuminates this poet’s inner smile! As you know I’m in the early days of grief following the recent death of friends, whose deaths came only ten days apart and without funerals now to attend, due to the pandemic, I’m struggling like many to process my grief.

      Lastly, thank you so much for sharing my poem on your FB writer’s page and spreading the word! That was so generous of you, and others too, I saw earlier. I’ve had lots of visits today! Sending you much love and light across the oceans between us, Deborah.

  3. Good work Deborah, the image of your crucifixion is striking. Deep, interesting, this one feels transcendent. Happy writing. Stay safe.

    1. Thank you so much Picasso for popping over and gifting me your kind-hearted words! Hmm, a crown of thorns felt just right for both the coronation and crucifixion that this modern day plague is currently bringing to the world. And with Easter only days away, the timing felt right too. Stay safe and be well too dear poet! Blessings always, Deborah.

  4. A very moving piece. Thank you for giving expression to what needed to be said. And good to see that you are processing our present state of affairs in a positive and constructive way.

    1. Thank you so much Jason for your wonderful reply! For two weeks I couldn’t write a thing about what’s been happening re coronavirus, then on Wednesday afternoon this poem burst forth! I’m sure I’ll write another one once the tide has turned here in the UK. Blessings always, Deborah.

  5. Deborah this is a beautifully stark and real piece of prose/poetry that tells it how it really is. You have described exactly what I and so many millions of people are feeling and thinking as we face this devastating plague. I love the fact that, whilst you have conveyed it all using beautiful words, there is no end coloured with rose tinted glasses – it is what it is and I truly hope that we come out of this kinder, more compassionate, far less materialistic and with a far greater respect for mother earth than she has been shown since the industrial revolution.

    The two “gluttonous gods” says it all – for climate change, and now this plague, is surely nature and the earth fighting back – making everyone sit up and pay attention. I pray the lessons are learned by all of the governments on this planet and that we re-emerge to a new, more caring world order. Stay safe and well in these strange and challenging times. Blessings, Sophia xx

    1. Wow! Thank you so much Sophia for your truly beautiful reply! For to be seen and heard is more than any poet could ever dare wish for! Tapping into the collective pulse I sense is part of the poet’s task. As an aside, in late 1980’s I wrote a few HIV/AIDS related poems into notebooks which sadly, I never kept yet I remember the importance of writing them at that time. Perhaps this is why people are already collecting memorabilia around the coronavirus.

      No, there’s no rose-coloured glasses being worn here! How can there be with more than one million COVID-19 cases recorded now! Yes please to a kinder, more compassionate, less materialistic, earth-loving world. I hope so because the writing’s clearly on the wall for all of us to see. Who can feign blindness or ignorance to what’s going on globally?!

      My dream last weekend said it all really! As I dreamt I was at a huge banquet watching two gluttonous gods feeding each other and then wreaking havoc on my physical body and that of Mother Earth, I woke and knew I had to write about this immediately. There’s more to the dream which no doubt I’ll be unpacking for weeks and months to come. I do believe Mother Nature is fighting back! Hope you’re staying safe and are well yourself. Love and light, Deborah.

  6. The sense and imagery of this poem grabs me. Yours is a generous offering Deborah. Thank you for your sharing your immediate reaction as the world suffers from the Coronavirus pandemic. The nursery rhyme Ring-a-ring-o’-roses springs to mind. Taken from BBC website:

    Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
    A pocket full of posies,
    A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
    We all fall down.

    Some people claim the nursery rhyme ‘Ring-a-ring-o’-roses’ is about the plague:

    • The ‘roses’ are the red blotches on the skin.
    • The ‘posies’ are the sweet-smelling flowers people carried to try to ward off the plague.
    • ‘Atishoo’ refers to the sneezing fits of people with pneumonic plague.
    • ‘We all fall down’ refers to people dying.

    Others believe that it’s just a nonsense rhyme. The fact that people are willing to believe that the nursery rhyme is about the plague shows how much importance it is still given today.

    1. Thank you so much Bookworm for your lovely visit and generous comment! I did walk back and forth with my muse for many days but felt too anxious and grief-stricken of late to write until Wednesday this week … so I guess almost “immediate” was the way it was.

      I do remember someone telling me once about this nursery rhyme being written during the Great Plague but had forgotten until you pointed it out. Makes sense! Hmm, I imagine many are reading books about historical pandemics at the moment and fictional ones too! Hope you’re safe and well. Blessings always, Deborah.

  7. Dearest Deborah, as I read this poem (The Poem) of Plague, which I might say it’d be coming out of all the world’s souls. And when I read the comments, I am just speechless! You have described every moment of our life these days, with your beautiful words. Thank you. Take care and be safe, for you and yours and all of us.

    1. Oh, thank you so much Aladin for your wonderful response to my poem! Yes, we’re all in this together for sure! I’m lucky to have readers from all across the world in both northern and southern hemispheres so hear how life is going for them in different countries. I’m forever grateful for the rich, generous insights that others leave in the comment section … they speak volumes in these dark, anxious times. Love and light, Deborah.

  8. This is poetry that pierces the heart again and again and again. ‘The Poet and the Plague’ reminds me of the bravery of poets who risk pain, misunderstanding and ridicule while they offer up wisdom received. In the words of Rumi, thank you Deborah for being a lamp, a lifeboat and a ladder in these shadowy times. All the best, Anna.

    1. Thank you so much Anna for your warm, insightful response to my coronavirus poem. And for putting into words the laughter and ridicule us poets sometimes receive when sharing our verses and hearts with the world. Oh, that you quoted the poet Rumi, spins and polishes my heart with delight A thousand blessings to you my dear friend, Deborah.

      1. [Ode 3090]

        Forget the world, and so
        command the world.

        Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.
        Help someone`s soul heal.
        Walk out of your house like a shepherd.

        Stay in the spiritual fire.
        Let it cook you.

        Be well-baked loaf
        and lord of the table.

        Come and be served
        to your brothers.

        You have been a source of pain.
        Now you`ll be the delight.

        You have been an unsafe house.
        Now you`ll be the One
        who sees into the Invisible.

        I said this, and a Voice came to my ear:
        If you become this, you will be That!

        Then Silence,
        and now more Silence.

        A mouth is not for talking.
        A mouth is for tasting this Sweetness.

        1. Oh, I’ve never knew that quote was taken from Ode 3090. Thank you Anna for posting the full text. This is a poem for these times indeed, one that deserves many rereads. x

  9. Dear Deborah, this is very stark and real – the hand against the window says much as well. Your words say so much in your true poetic way.

    ‘You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flows into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness’ Jung, The Red Book.

    I suspect that what has been rumbling underneath is now erupting. We’ve had so much disappearing and so much appearing in the vacuum left behind .. the fires and floods, the droughts and now the plague. This is surely a wake up call like never before and as you say, first will be the gathering of bones. But chaos first, and when the seeds are planted and take root, we will be replenished and an order of a more beneficent one, kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate towards each and every living thing. More valuing of what connection we have to all that is.

    Take heart, give power to your pen, take love and receive it. Thank you for this beautiful piece of prose that pierces where it is aimed.

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your beautiful, soulful response to my poem! I couldn’t think of how to illustrate the plague but then self-isolation came to mind and my glass door. I feel lucky to be married to an amazing photographer who enjoys exploring her creativity too!

      Wow, I love the depth of that quote by Jung! When I think about the rumbling it began mid-January, yet I couldn’t think why because there was no external events to which rumbles could be attributed until I felt life punch me in the face with two successive friends’ deaths, only days apart.

      Yes! “Sound, sound the clarion!” Coronavirus MUST be our wake-up call! We must make the connection between what’s been going on with our beloved planet and our own physical bodies. How can we remain blind to the obvious and the evidence before us!

      “but first, the gathering of bones” Here’s a article which may help others understand what I mean by the very last line of my poem: and how self-isolation can helps us find psycho-spiritual recovery.

      “But chaos first, and when the seeds are planted and take root, we will be replenished and an order of a more beneficent one, kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate towards each and every living thing. More valuing of what connection we have to all that is.”

      YES! YES! YES! Sending you much love and light across the oceans between us, Deborah.

  10. Deborah, can you hear me clapping?!! I’m profoundly moved by your latest poem, especially the italicised lines – they set the right atmosphere because COVID-19 isn’t going to be a fairy tale with a happy ending to come is it?

    I haven’t written since this began. Most days I feel overwhelmed and stressed out – the weeks are passing by in a blur, it seems like Groundhog Day forever. Thank god for Netflix!

    Making the connection between the coronavirus symptoms and climate change is spot on!!

    As we move towards Easter, the poetic imageries you offer.. “the plague nails her to the door, and crowns her in thorns” will strike your readers. Btw, great photo!! HF

    1. Thank you so much Henry for your wonderful comment! That’s so very kind of you! In a way I had two poems competing for my attention so decided to integrate both. No, it’s not a fairy-tale at all, more like a waking nightmare that’s striking terror into the hearts of millions.

      It’s all the ordinary freedoms I miss most, like seeing family and friends. Being a Luddite, I’m now having to learn how to use Skype for the first time in my life. Ha-ha! And it’s not going well! Although I hear good things about Zoom, so may give that platform a go next.

      I know what you mean re writing because I didn’t pick up my pen until Wednesday and this won’t be the last of these poems either. I think one at the start, one in the middle and one at the end will be a good plan … since we all need to remember and never forget this dark time.

      Oh, and I’m so grateful that we’ve got a garden! Think I’d go crazy otherwise! It’s the small things, like kindness that matter in these strange and challenging times. Love and light, Deborah.

        1. There you go. See, you’re off! Thanks for photo mention, it’s me self-isolating! 🙂

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