Poetry from J.K. Durick

Plague Poem for Day Thirty-Six

She asks me what’s up for today,

an innocent enough question

one we’ve asked each other

for so many years it’s easy to

lose count, but now it takes on

a weight of meaning, perhaps

a subtle dig, I have been doing

very little recently, yards need

tending, garage cleaning, and

the cellar organizing, or she may

be making a point about how

much more she does every day

while I read, write a bit, watch

too much TV, nap, and some days

walk around our neighborhood

the world I’ve built and live in now

and when she asks what’s up, I end

up saying I have plans, plans I leave

mysterious, a bit of pride, a vague

something to say when she asks

and I have nothing else.

   Plague Poem for Day Thirty-Seven

Sometimes I forget things, easy things

a pill at a certain hour, a person’s name,

or who I sent something to but forgot and

sent the same thing off again. I forget

so easily, why I walked from the kitchen

into the living room, what it was that I

hoped to find in the car. Forgetting has

become part of every day, I shed parts

of me this way, I trim down my life

get rid of whole sections of my past,

parts I miss and parts I’m better off

without. It’s part art, part medical, much

too methodical in its ways to be creative,

more paint by numbers than impressionist,

more fill-in-blanks than poetry. I forget

more each day, have become proficient in

my own way. Tried to write a check, but

fumbled the date, remembered the number

of the day, the month, even could have said

Wednesday with confidence, but I couldn’t

remember the year, it’s not ’97 anymore,

what happens to years, days are simple, but

years hurt – I wrote 2015, I remember that

year but for some reason have forgotten all

the rest, even today, it’s an easy thing to do.

     Plague poem for Day Thirty-Eight

Where do they go after they’re done with us?

Where do they go, the dead that is, where do

they go after they give up the ghost, the ship,

stop all this nonsense? Do they gather in the

wings, compare notes, watch to see who’s next?

Do they take time, think back about how their

ends unfolded? Do they talk about the who, what,

and when of it, the warning signs, the bad advice,

the look on the faces around them when they knew?

Do they decide which ones of us they will haunt,

tap on the glass, drag chains, pace slowly back and

forth in the attic, whisper to us on windy nights?

Now that they know that enough wasn’t enough but

all they could take; do they mark things down in

their ledgers, try to balance the book, the things

they remember and what we are saying about them?

Do they care about body bags, coffins, and makeshift 

morgues? Do they care about the numbers, the living

and then the dead, the seeming winners and their place

as losers? Do they measure remembrance – the flags

at half-staff, the mention on the evening news, vague

funerals with nothing left to say? Do they know that

they were/are keeping us from returning to normal?

Do they wonder now that they know more than we do?