“Still in Plague Time” and “I Can’t Stop”

Still in Plague Time

It is summer still    blue sky
trees heavy with foliage

loud birds in the shrubbery 
hiding from hawks

neglected towers crumbling
and the plagues of hatred

and addiction and despair
and the attack of the invisible   

against a temple here or there
white stone   gone dead

The collapse of a far-off government
The daily suicides of veterans

What am I to make of all this beauty
and all this sorrow   and fear

please just act like normal
like everything will be okay

please trust the system
say the system managers

and then a woman    nameless
stands up   shouting   in pain

watch out for the angels
they despise you

there they go flying over you 
heading for the coast

coughing garbage
into the atmosphere

above you


I Can't Stop

A friend asks me if I can compose a two-word poem.
I say:  Why not.
God asks me if I can forgive him.
I say: Sure.
Time asks me if I can feel it like a breeze sometimes at my back
Sometimes like an obstacle   sometimes like a knee on my throat
While the seconds and minutes tick devotedly by.
I say:  Do you want me to reassure you?  Okay, you rule.
Love asks me if I can still feel love
I say:  less than I once did
But it is the best feeling in the world     the gold standard 
Hope asks me if I still believe
I say:   I ‘m sorry     I can’t stop    believing

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Alicia Ostriker's most recent collection of poetry is The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems 2002-2021.  Ostriker has twice received a National Jewish Book Award for her poetry.  As a critic, she is author of For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book.

Photo Credit: Amy Meier

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