Diary of a Plague Year Parts 8–10

  1. Pocketful of Posies

1665 London Plaguei.

London, 1665. Bubonic plague rides

the greasy backs of flea-ridden rats,

an invading army no one will see

for another two centuries. Instead,


every dog and cat in the city is killed.

Houses of the infected are nailed shut,

entire families condemned to death,

blood-red crosses painted on the doors,


150,000 unanswered prayers:

Lord have mercy on us! Children chant

a jaded litany: Ring around the roses,

pocketful of posies, we all fall down dead.


Medical authorities insist

a nosegay of sweet blossoms

will keep away the poisoned air,

a bonfire of spiced herbs on every street


ward off the Angel of Death.

In the evening, gravediggers roll up

their carts to collect the bodies.

Two-thirds of London somehow survives.


No one bothers to ask why.



March 2020. Now that two centuries

of science have insulated us from Nature,

torn apart Earth’s body to steal and then

rewrite her secrets, we must find new ways


to keep the population down. Today’s

Angel of Death wears surgical gear

with military insignia, recombining genes

to create a bloodless victory


over democracy’s remains. Kinder,

gentler psychopaths salivate

over a new world order dominated

by the ever-present eye,


humans just another form of meat.

Facemasks and antisocial

distancing no more effective

than a pocketful of posies, the blind faith


technology will solve everything.

Crowd control

  1. Crowd Control

The rules are set to paradox, coercion and blind faith.

—Roy Harper, “The Game”


Special ops branch social engineers

brew mental toxins in tax haven

think tanks, spewing memes

like rubber bullets for 21st century


crowd control. An OCD Nation

of germophobes is the new abnormal—

projectile hand sanitizer

the new weapon of mass destruction


aimed at our own guts, that secret

garden of microbial soil working

invisibly to keep us alive, dreams

busy at their shadow work.


Gripping the sheets in my fever

of pandemic, the billionaire elite

coalesces into one body,

padded out like a hockey player


as I slam down blow after

useless blow, grab its gargoyle head

and try to gouge out its tongue

of twisted snakes, outgunned


by the sleeping armies of love.


  1. Shadow Work

People are torn and hurt because they’re sick of seeing Black men die. Constantly, over and over again. —Philonese Floyd on the death of his brother George Floyd by Minneapolis police May 28, 2020

“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” Floyd

gasps, his larynx crushed, knee

to throat, as he mouths the mantra

of the coronavirus age. No more


To serve and protect, the doublespeak

slogan of occupying forces clad

in storm trooper gear bought at discount

in the Pentagon’s Boxing Day blowout.


Orwell’s nightmare of the future

a boot crushing a human face forever,

and that face is Black, Indigenous,

Poor, or anything else that resembles


the human shadow so desperately

feared by One Percent lackeys,

their Bilderberg bosses convinced

enough money and power will buy them


safety from the rabble. Just the cost

of doing business, they simper, as cities

ignite the globe in tear gas parades

of outrage, the smoldering guts


of austerity policies out in the open.

Concussion grenades explode trauma

on top of trauma, our collective eyes

burning in fountains of pepper spray.


No justice, no peace, chant protestors

outside the third precinct police station.

But this isn’t just about racism. It’s about

power—the beast that lurks in all of us.


Feed that animal love or all bets are off.


©2020 Sean Arthur Joyce

About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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1 Response to Diary of a Plague Year Parts 8–10

  1. Jonathan Burden says:

    Great stuff, Art.

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