Newspapers overflow with empty words
from men who value money more than lives
while bodies stack up faster than we can bury
and doctors and nurses reuse protective gear
and each solitary death, lungs filling with water
in a negative pressure room, is a world destroyed.
I wish I believed that God hurls lightning bolts
like Zeus on his mountain striking evil down.
I want to smash what keeps us in thrall
to petty kings who feel no empathy
who set their children one against another
fighting for supplies in a zero-sum game.
My child asks why God doesn't answer our prayers.
Grief stoppers my throat. What can I say?
This is the second poem in an occasional series. (The first is Pandemic Psalm 1.) I'm teaching three different classes right now on psalms (reading them, praying them, engaging with them devotionally, writing our own) and as a result the psalms are very much with me in this moment.
These poems are not translations or renderings of the classical psalms -- they are the outpouring of my own heart. That said, this second psalm in my pandemic psalms series takes some inspiration from psalm 2 which speaks of people "murmur[ing] vain things" (in Robert Alter's translation), and of earthly kings, and uses the language of smashing or shattering. That language feels apt in this time when the world's brokenness is so palpable and so painfully clear.