“Plague” by Joanna Chen

There is a big black X
scrawled in the sky
above the block we live in.


Apartment: 7
Block: 3
It means: Bring out your dead.


But today is the Sabbath.
We cannot bring out the dead
until this day of rest is over.


We sit. We stand
at the window watching
the street below, dogs


sniffing for leftovers
from Saturday lunch,
candy wrappers drifting


onto the sidewalk,
nudged by the wind.
We could have kept you


alive, could have punched
a hole in your throat
to breathe, but we let


go and now the body
cools more slowly than
we could have imagined.







Joanna Chen is a poet and literary translator. Her poems, essays and translations have appeared in Poet Lore, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Cactus Heart, and The Bakery, among others. She recently appeared on Transatlantic Poetry and is guest poetry editor of The Ilanot Reviewwww.joannachen.com