Apocalypse Rot, a quarantined poem
A protester covers his face from smoke during a march against police brutality, July 10, 2020, in Detroit. | Nicole Hester / Ann Arbor News via AP

Imperialism leaves germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.” Frantz Fanon

Who knew the apocalypse would come by way of cough?
that a sneeze could kill you
like a scene from the Walking Dead
“avoid each other like the plague” is no longer cliché

What we fear is the dread our lives always been
unmasked now for the matrix of lies
unplugged as we huddle in an insanity of isolation
inhaling the hot toxic phlegm of a fool
masquerading as commander-in-chief
stockpiling toilet tissue
but can’t wipe away the shit stain of disgrace
from his clown face
whose make-up is an artificial tan
and colored wig is his own hair
or so he’d have us believe

Thinking he could somehow ban a virus at the border
treat it like it was some Muslim immigrant
or detain it like it was the child of Mexican parents
listen to the way he says China
enunciating his bigotry before the world

Yet it would seem this virus votes Republican
preying as it does on those with pre-existing conditions
as though it were a double agent for some right-wing conspiracy
concocted by pharmaceutical lobbyists on K Street
trying to espionage the cure from Cuban doctors

It has certainly become
a germ attack on those for whom
“code black” is more than a medical alert
but a fitting omen to a people trapped
in zip coded cages of structural neglect
where the odds are stacked

Could it be that the ones calling this a war
are the ones that fired the first shot?
who failed to provide coverage
cut the budget to the CDC
leaving our loved ones to rot in make-shift morgues
dignity robbed as final rites denied
can’t touch
can’t say goodbye
no final baptism in the palms of our tears
a mass grave dug by their laissez-faire disregard for our humanity

America’s sins are the death wages now paid
to those made to survive
on the bare minimum

How many lies have we been told
by those that would have us replace
the Rod of Asclepius for the dollar sign?
who would sacrifice their elders
to save an economy that never saved us
a nickel or a dime let alone our lives
and we are still expected to pay rent

“And this too shall pass”
doesn’t account for those that have passed
doesn’t account for those left to mourn them
quarantined in a quagmire of misery
unless we are diseased of heart
cold and corroded as the senators
who vote down relief packages
ignoring their own test results
kept immune to the pain of their constituents

and yes we are dying
we are dying
we are dying

In Europe’s dark ages
they believed you cast out demons when you sneezed
which is why we say God bless you
yet our prayers can’t stop the dying or bring them back
tell me how did it come to this?

Preachers too busy proselytizing prosperity scams
to read the signs in the heavens
claiming healing for those that
send in their tithes on time
via online cash apps

And all this did was reveal
the wounds on the body politic
the immorality of unsolicited touches
garbled speeches and gaffes by presidential hopefuls
an unrepressed racism rabid as mangy feral dogs
diseased by a dementia’d democracy
on life-support

It would seem that the Earth itself
has cursed us
suffering from a seasonal flu that never ceases
a perennial fever raging in storms, earthquakes and tornadoes
whose only cure is the doomsday of a species
who’ve shown themselves to be the actual virus
now put in a global time-out

And we are running out of time
time is running out
for us who walk on two feet, speak, have opposable thumbs
and cover our loins

Our enemy is not nature
but those that have designed to
wrap in plastic
put it on their shelves
to sell to us what is already ours to share

What would the dead say to us?
except that we need to change
yet if not for them, then for ourselves
most certainly for the children

Let them know a world without words like
trafficking, exploitation, extraction, fossil fuel, minimum wage

Where a free market is where you go to get groceries
not the stocks that keep you in bondage

Let them know a world where health care
is free
as the air we breathe
and let the air become our friend again

We must envision a new way
believing what we know
a new world is not just possible
it is essential if we are to survive

So now we’re calling all dreamers to the front-lines

All the poets, singers, painters and seers
all the upstarts and agitators
those unsettled with the rot gut
known as the way things are
the socialized rut we rat race in

Vision us a new world
rendered by the needs of bees
as vast as the trek of polar bears wanderlust
measured by the memory of elephants
and the rise of the oceans on the coastlines
as urgent as the fires raging in Australia

A vision indomitable

As the aboriginal peoples that have everything
to teach us about this world

While the sun still rises in the East.

Ewuare X. Osayande is a poet, essayist and author of several books including Whose America?: New and Selected Poems and his latest collection of poems entitled Black Phoenix Uprising. Learn more about his work at Osayande.org.


Ewuare X. Osayande
Ewuare X. Osayande

Poet. Political Activist. Intersectional Anti-Racism Educator. Author of "Whose America? New & Selected Poems."