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The Pest
BC (January 28,1929 / Oakland, California)

The Pest

Rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
burrowing into foodstuff packed on camels;
along far-reaching caravan routes
to the Russian steppes,
bearing fleas, breeding along the way,
scrambling aboard ships
laden with exotic goods.

Across the Euxine Sea,
through the Bosporus,
breeding along the way, bearing their fleas
to Sicily, and beyond.

Rats walk away from the cultures of the plague:
Genoa, Padua, Prague, Paris, Bruges.
as Edward's archers rout the French
at Crécy.

Everywhere the dance of death
as pestilence drops one in every three.
Prayers for divine protection
go unheeded:

Neither Jesus in London,
nor Allah in Córdova deigns to halt
this monstrous eruption of misery,
and mighty Yahweh smites
the Polish ghettos.

Breeding as they go,
lethal parasites cozily ensconced
and feeding greedily on their hot blood,
rats walk away
from the cultures of the plague.

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