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The Disease

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Paradise Lost – Paul Gustave Dore (via Tumblr)

This poem was written somewhere between 1997 and 1999. I’d just completed my Ph.D and was living in an apartment in an old, run-down house in Ottawa.

Initially, I saw “The Disease” as a metaphor for oppressive ideas and images like J.-P. Sartre’s bad faith, Erich Fromm’s mechanical man and Albert Camus’ The Plague. The sociological notion of false consciousness also came to mind while writing it.

The poem wasn’t planned. It came, more or less, in a stream of consciousness. While tapping it out on my old Toshiba 286 laptop I remember noting just how foreboding it was getting (“rotting sky…all are doomed to die”) and not really knowing why. But I followed my instinct and didn’t delete the heavy parts.

After 9/11, I realized that this unsettling verse could be taken as a premonition. As the new millennium approached, not a few artists and sensitives seemed to be picking up something truly terrible on their radar.

That said, around the time of writing I was reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. So one could say that I wasn’t foreseeing anything—just subconsciously aping the greats and their treatment of evil.

God only knows.

The Disease

I’ve watched it grow
I’ve seen it sow
true minds into despair

souls of sorrow
ladened deep
burning horrid stares

I’ve seen it work
at lightning speed
to destroy mankind’s seed

through the air
it does its deed
this is its only care

sans partiality
sans decency
Yes, this is “the disease”

You over there!
you believe you’re clear
of this melancholy breeze?

Well let me tell you
if you please
it’s a fatal,
dreadful siege

For once contracted
once enacted
you’ll go on normally
“it’s okay”
“I’m just fine”
“yes, I think I am still free”

But then, alas!
the grippe is tightened
beyond all points of ease
and shipwrecked sailors on the sea of life
all drown
irrevocably

Yes I’ve seen this blight
‘cross this land
and winds are blowing high
no apple pie nor starlit nights
will save this rotting sky
all is darkened
all are dead
all are doomed to die

Lance it fast while time remains
avoid a fearsome plight
destroy this curse
and rest assured
your mark is
for the
light

Cast it out and let us pray
“Lord give us back our sight”
Cast it out to guarantee,
Truth shall conquer might


The Disease © Michael Clark 1997 to present. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “The Disease

  1. Hmm…now I understand your interest in mysticism, etc.

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