Monday, April 6, 2020


Many years ago in college I read Ellen Bryant Voigt's book of poems, Kyrie, which is set during the influenza pandemic of 1918. I've thought of it on and off since then, particularly during the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and, of course, now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I found my copy of the book in my bookshelves the other day and read through it again. Each poem is written from the perspective of different, recurring people, dealing with the pandemic and/or World War I, in their own ways. The title, Kyrie ("Lord, have mercy") is referenced throughout, with poems alluding to the various characters' feelings of abandonment by their God, (naive?) optimism in the beginning ("Surely He shall deliver us from the snare"), and eventual hopelessness ("Oh yes I used to pray").

Another recurring theme is that of animals, both their ability to sense when something is off and the inescapable fact that humans are embodied animals and a part of nature, ourselves, despite our modern amenities.

In an early poem, foreshadowing the pandemic, she writes:

"Dogs, all kind of dogs - signals
are their job, they cock their heads,
their backs bristle, even house dogs
wake up and circle the wool rug
Outside, the vacant yard: then,
within minutes something eats the sun."

Life is inescapably different, and dark.

In another, she writes:

"Before the weather goes, you slaughter hogs
unless you want to find them on their sides, 
rheumy eyes, running snout.

It's simple enough arithmetic, 
so don't you think the Kaiser knew?
Get one hog sick, you get them all."

Looking at our present situation, a pandemic would be frightening even if we had trustworthy, competent, mature leadership at the federal level.

What is more clear than ever is that the 2016 election was a catastrophic failure in the history of our nation, as what is making this pandemic exponentially worse for the USA is that Donald Trump is in charge of the federal government.

I don't think he cares about Americans (or anyone) dying, and in fact he probably wants us to if we are Democrats, living in major (Democratic-voting) cities, and/or live in states with Democratic governors.

I think he's a sociopathic narcissist who only cares about the economy, rather than human beings, recovering. (Likewise, I think many of the journalists who covered Trump in 2016, and who continue to do so, are also sociopathic narcissists who are still somewhat entertained by Trump and everything that is happening right now, and that anyone lauding Trump's "change in tone as of late" should be deeply ashamed and resign immediately for incompetence.)

I think Trump will try to use the pandemic as an excuse to try cancel, delay, and/or rig the 2020 election, or to severely suppress turnout.

I think we have to rely more than ever on state, local, and private efforts for relief.

Officials are saying we have a very rough week or weeks ahead of us. I know a lot of people are having a hard time, for all kinds of reasons. So, mostly, I just wanted to drop a note to say hi and give people space to vent, be mad, be sad, be scared, whatever.

But I also want to say this: Rudy Giuliani is a creepy-ass dillrod who looks/acts like one of the Gentlemen from the episode "Hush" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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