“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Seattle” by Jed Myers

dante death (2)
Dante being rowed by Charon, detail; Priamo della Quercia

The Humility of Old Men


climbs in through the soles of their feet

might gout a big toe might turn
an ankle whose ligament got loosed up
years ago under a basket      might wear
through the cartilage of a right knee

on its way to a hip’s ball       and socket
and on from there    it’ll flaccid
the groin’s passion gear find a pocket
of bowel to inflame       it will infiltrate
the diaphragm and make camp in the heart

tighten the arteries stiffen the lungs
and steepen the hills      it will ascend
and drill itself into the pulp of teeth

pull down the shoulders brittle the neck
cloud the eyes yellow the world       humility

shrinks old men sometimes to a ripeness
a friends-with-death kind of translucence

lets us see the well-traveled child
who smiles at me from his hospital bed



Jed Myers is author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), The Marriage of Space and Time (MoonPath Press), and four chapbooks, including Dark’s Channels (Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Award) and Love’s Test (winner, Grayson Books Chapbook Contest). Among recent recognitions, his poems have won The Briar Cliff Review’s Annual Poetry Contest, the Prime Number Magazine Award, The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Prize, and The Tishman Review’s Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize. Recent work appears in Rattle, Poetry Northwest, The American Journal of PoetryTinderbox Poetry JournalSouthern Poetry ReviewOn the SeawallRuminate, and elsewhere. He’s poetry editor for Bracken.