Masque of the Red Virus

Pandemic Poetry

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Stuff a rag in your ragged mouth.
Now, scream. Cough.
Taste the blood
in the back of your throat.
That is the flavor of panic.

Are your hands clean?
Have you licked the cheese dust
from the crevices
of your cuticles?
Have you listened
for the crackle
of ice cubes


into glasses of warm water
and felt that brittleness
in your bones?

The President has declared
your fear to be a hoax.

The President has declared
a moratorium
on coughs.

The CDC will not coax
your worries
into submission
no more than a razor
may knick the skin
beneath the beard
to allow
a tighter seal
with an N95 mask.

It’s just the common cold,
says your friend
recently returned from Italy
where the shops are all closed.
He’s throwing a party.
Everyone’s invited.


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