The Plague

as a Secular Concept

by David Capps

New Haven, Connecticut

When I overhear conversations of lungs burning 

as I sit on the stone path outside the music school 

in the settled, mid-October air, I think of Clement VI

and the plague, the twin walls of flames between 

which he rested


and thought of the past. How we share the sun

in the sky, and the birds’ mute slant, and the absurdity 

of rainbows made self-conscious, the glint of cynical 

travelers, the reverent


self-flagellations. They bear the cross in twisted 

irony, while cattle which carry the sigil starve. 

If I have learned, totally and completely, to forget

about the horizon, it is not by following 

into dusk the promise of the next life. 


It is not by being scorched by pretend flames 

on either side that I should forget. Simply one day comes, 

then the next, each without waking 

to any additional weight on my chest. 

David Capps is a philosophy professor at Western Connecticut State University. He is the author of three chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019), A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019), and Colossi (Kelsay Books, 2020). He lives in New Haven, CT.