Odes to Illness: Poetry About the World’s Deadliest Infectious Diseases

Odes to Illness: Poetry About the World’s Deadliest Infectious Diseases

RORY MALEK

Disease is one of the world’s greatest wonders. Something as small as a virus or bacterium can start a chain reaction that kills millions of people. The strain of Bubonic Plague that ran rampant through medieval times killed more than a third of Europe, and, in more recent times, we have faced even more precarious threats in the form of severe respiratory diseases and HIV/AIDS.

These benevolent microbes have yet to kill us all, and I would like to convey my humble gratitude for their mercy in the form of some simple poetry for a few special, microscopic killers, 100 years since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

A Requiem by Rabies

When you hear a raccoon’s call,

You better dodge that sneaky claw,

‘Cause fear of water kills us all

Without Milwaukee’s Protocol.

Rabies is quite a death!


If it turns out that Batman bites

In the deep, dark depths of the night

Look for danger in doubled sight

Or avoidance of modest lights.

Rabies is quite a death!


A Sonnet for SARS

In the depths of the darkest Chinese caves

Is a killer so evil and depraved,

When fevers present it's just far too late

SARS is a disease you don't want to face!


A disease that our bat friends can relay,

A fomite that won’t seem to go away,

It can incubate for 4 to 6 days,

SARS is a disease you don’t want to face!


Severe and acute, redundant you say?

It’s ‘cause “Arse” is the alternative name

If breathing and talking become a pain,

SARS is a disease you might have to face!


A Villanelle for Visceral Leishmaniasis

While black fever whispers, “Treatments, no more”,

All the world’s doctors tremble in terror

Be careful, my friend, less death hold the door!


Though kala-azar is far from our shores,

Your indifference is ever unfairer

While black fever whispers,” Treatments, no more.”


If you venture to the Eastern outdoors

And insecticide supplies grow rarer,

Be careful, my friend, less death hold the door!


In the sandfly, there lies a carnivore

Whose only killer is facing error

While black fever whispers,” Treatments, no more.”


Untreated bodies wage a futile war,

Death guaranteed, no matter the carer!

Be careful, my friend, less death hold the door!


Worried words should not shake you to your core,

But of these words, you must be the bearer:

While black fever whispers,” Treatments, no more”,

Be careful, my friend, less death hold the door!



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