By Carmine Di Biase
(after W.B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming”)
Whirling and whirling in the thickening air
The virus does not spare the virulent;
Lungs breathe it in; it enters through the pores;
Sheer treachery is loosed within the veins.
The crown-shaped beast is loosed, and everywhere
The memory of embracing is gone:
The best are all indifferent, while the worst
Burn hot with partisan intensity.
Surely some vaccination is at hand;
Surely the Next Election is at hand.
The Next Election! Hardly are those words out
When the horrid image of Voter Suppression
Hovers before me: there, in the usurped White House,
The “bloat king”, as Hamlet called him, polishes his gold,
And moves his slow, chafed thighs, while all about him
Flit the shadows of his craven enablers.
Dejection comes again; but now I hope
That two centuries of democracy,
Undone by a spoiled slouch, might find new life
If, unseen and swift, this dread Corona,
Reaching Washington, strips him of his crown.
Carmine Di Biase writes on Shakespeare and modern English and Italian literature. His poems and translations have appeared in several journals. He teaches English at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
I’ve been teaching English literature at Jacksonville State University, in Northeast Alabama, since 1993. Last March we went online because of Covid-19, which since then has killed or sickened a good many people here. I can’t say that it was Covid-19 that prompted me to start writing poetry, although obviously this poem, “The Next Election,” was indeed inspired by the virus and the president’s handling, or mishandling, of it. A few years ago, I translated some Italian poems by Cesare Pavese, and to my surprise I found myself jotting down some ideas for poems of my own. Translation, which requires the most intimate kind of reading, is what really sent me down the path of verse. And this pandemic – because of the isolation it has forced upon me – has given me the time and the spiritual space required to bring some of my poems to completion. A few have appeared in poetry journals. My hope is to see all of them, a small collection, appear in a chapbook. That prospect, however, is not the important thing. What really matters is to know the satisfaction of taking bits of one’s experience and fixing them in some appropriate poetic form. It’s a truth I’ve always known, but had it not been for the pandemic I might never have had such a real and prolonged taste of that satisfaction.