Sunday, July 26, 2020

July 26: Poem from "Kyrie," History Repeating Itself, 150000 Dead and Counting

Poem from Kyrie

by:  Ellen Bryant Voigt

Maybe the soul is breath.  The door shut,
the doctor, needed elsewhere, on his rounds,
the bereaved withdrawn, preoccupied with grief,
I pack each orifice with hemp, or gauze,
arrange the limbs, wash the flesh--at least
a last brief human attention,
                                              not like
those weeks the train brought in big wicker
baskets we had to empty and return,
bodies often so blue we couldn't tell
who was Colored, who was White, which
holy or civil ground to send them to,
plots laid out by dates instead of names. . . .

Have you ever heard a dead man sigh?
A privilege, that conversation.


A bleak poem about a bleak moment in human history.  The dead piling up, mass graves, human beings reduced to dates on a calendar.  The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

It seems so distant, and not so distant. 

Tonight's post will not be a rant about the crowded beaches this weekend in the Upper Peninsula.  Or all the people I saw in Walmart with their masks around their chins like feedbags.  Or a government more concerned about money than health.  Or healthcare professionals--doctors, nurses, medical assistants--politicizing something as basic to infection control as masks and hand washing. 

Nope.  I'm not going to write about any of those things.  That is simply history repeating itself.  If you don't believe me, check it out.  In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson encouraged people not to wear masks, to gather in large crowds to celebrate the ending of World War I.  And people in the United States went around ranting about their Constitutional rights being violated because they were forced to wear masks.  And there were Spanish flu deniers.  And politicians claiming that the flu was simply going to vanish miraculously.

We have been here before, a century ago.  And we didn't learn one goddamn thing.

So, this post is about the dead.  150,000 and counting.  Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters.  I don't want to hear about the inaccuracy of the CDC reports.  I won't listen to arguments about the efficacy of mask-wearing.  Don't tell me that shutting things down again would destroy the economy.

150,000 and counting.

Put your politics aside.  Stop thinking about red states and blue states.  Start thinking about that number.

150,000 and counting.

Are you willing to hear all those dead men and women sighing?  Do you want that privilege?  That conversation?

Saint Marty doesn't.

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