The Virus


Like Pilate before Christ, I wash my hands.
When soap rips them to shreds, do viruses
Feel pain? And can a virus feel regret
When it has killed its host and doomed itself?
No doves or rainbows follow the great flood
Of pus and blood that laid waste to the lungs
It called its home. I thought I’d killed my host
When I was small – the pale and perfect host
that I believed was not bread but the flesh
of God. My sin infested hands with nails,
Contaminated love itself with death.
But my infecting soul could only live
in Him. Survival meant I must mutate
into a strain of self less virulent,
that doesn’t eat or fuck or rage or sleep
or hope for anything other than Him,
or feel things besides shame, or love

I’d hide like herpes simplex in my God,
and scarcely bother him. It didn’t work.
“Can you not wait and watch an hour with me?”
I tried. I can’t. I’m human. I need sleep.
My fast fails, so I vomit, so my flesh
Insists on more. I slash my arms
to drive away my rage at you, the pain
only brings further rage. I’m hollowed out,
an animated corpse. Saints you run dry
Have tired and lifeless eyes but sparkling souls.
My soul is still a fetid mass of slime,
but my dark-circled eyes stare out
from a sick-looking face. I start to ask,
who is infecting whom? Why do the hands
that flung stars into space require a girl
an unimportant girl, to tear herself
to pieces pleasing him? I realized
I’m not the virus. You are. I’m the host.
I cast the angels out and heal myself.

But now the world’s more broken than before
(And it was always broken, always cruel,
Always riddled with plagues, always unjust,
Always oppressive, always full of pain,
Always on fire, but it burns brighter now.)
Temptation whispers “Re-infect yourself
with Me. There is no joy or peace on earth,
Only on the other side of the grave.
Give up on earthly good: nothing is good
but God alone. Abandon all your hope.
See all the kingdoms of the aching world!
Watch how they writhe around in agony
All this pain I will take away from you
If you simply bow down and worship me!”
Into your hands, Lord, I refuse to give
My spirit. I don’t trust omnipotence
To save me or my neighbor. Though I have
Almost no power, still the power I have,
I use for love, including for myself.
I worship life in spite of everything.
I say the world to come can fuck itself.
This one, imperfect, finite though it is
I will protect in any way I can.
Like Pilate before Christ, I wash my hands.


#poetry #Christianity #covid19 #illness tw #unsanitary cw #self harm cw #this probably deserves some other warning tag but I am not sure what #(I might be reading too much into it but #–knowing that the author moved from Britain to America– #I feel like there might be some layers of meaning in the fact that ”neighbor” is spelled without a ”u” here) #(something about chosen homes)

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