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The Disease – A poem I wrote a few years before 9/11

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9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center (New York)

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.

This is a poem I wrote somewhere between 1997 and 1999. I’d just finished my Ph.D and was living in the top floor of an old, run-down house in Ottawa, the national capital of Canada.

At first, I saw “The Disease” as a metaphor for ideas like J.-P. Sartre’s bad faith, Erich Fromm’s mechanical man, Albert Camus’ The Plague and the sociological concept of false consciousness. That is, how some psychologically underdeveloped or skewed people can oppress innocent people.

The poem wasn’t planned. It mostly came via stream of consciousness, with a bit of tweaking after I’d typed out the main parts. While tapping away on my old 286 laptop I remember thinking just how foreboding it was becoming (“rotting sky…all are doomed to die”) and not really knowing why. I followed my instinct and didn’t delete the disquieting parts, although I did consider it for a moment.

After 9/11, I felt that this utterly foreboding 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 rotten on their radar.

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

God only knows.

By the time of the 9/11 attacks, I’d moved to Toronto, a larger, more cosmopolitan city. On the afternoon of 9/11/2001 I took a walk down Yonge Street, one of the busier streets, and felt a quiver of fear as I looked at our skyscrapers. Would they hit several cities? I can only imagine how New Yorkers must have felt. And watching the memorials today on TV only reminds me of what a pack of losers those are who hate and try to undermine the developed world.

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One thought on “The Disease – A poem I wrote a few years before 9/11

  1. The first two likes are from my 2014 posting of this poem. Today I added a bit more commentary. Just thought I should mention that.

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