• leaflet

    . . .a thin triangular flap of a heart valve. . . a small book usually having a paper cover . . . a medical lit-art e-journal from The Permanente Press
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Covid Tale

Vol 6: Iss 2, Poetry

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. 
No pestilence had ever been so fatal or so hideous.
— Edgar Allan Poe


Like a leper outside the gates 
I can see the upturned brows,
eyes that glance away, faces
drawn tight to quell the drum 
beating within their chests.

Passersby on city streets
avoid each other, listening
for sniffles, watching for hands
touching eyes and nose, for hands
reaching out in proffered greeting.

Signs held up to elders kept
behind shuttered windows
give sympathy for their plight,
“Jesus is with you”, they say
“even if we cannot come”.

Racing to shelves swept clean
in stores emptied of goods, 
masks are worn like amulets
to ward away exhaled humors
of unseen scowling demons.

Fetid winds seep under doors,
foreign yellow faces seen
as “other” steal away breath
of those unaware, those lain
to rest under red-stained shrouds.

The healer now one of the exposed,
my masked face spurned invitation
to the macabre dance, left alone
away from the undulating limbs
that await the stroke of the hour. 

Behind the red-horned mask 
laughter comes, a voice echoes
“suffer not these fools”, such
are born alone to an illusion 
that all of this will remain.


My poem “Covid Tale” reflects my emotions surrounding caring for patients in the Life Care Center nursing home during the Covid-19 outbreak as well as undergoing my own quarantine following exposure. I reference Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death” in the epigraph as I use imagery from his story in my poem.