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Thursday, July 24, 2014


by Michael Shorb

The deadly Ebola virus that’s killed more than 600 people so far in West Africa may have been smoldering there for years and has almost certainly sickened people who thought they had something else, researchers say. --NBC News, July 20, 2014

From Pointe-Noire to Mombasa
the AIDS Highway
runs through villages
hunched in smoky blue-gum
cooking fires, veers north
into unbroken rain forest
tracts, peels east at Kisangani,
where ageless women walk
its red clay shoulders.

Goes into Uganda, past
immense and turgid
Lake Victoria, past
the Isle of Plagues
where infected monkeys
shriek and gibber bearing
inner leaf storms
of microbial marauders.

Toward Mt. Elgon's
mantle of blue hills
laced with fever trees
and floods of native corn
where warning calls
of Colubus monkeys
explode from the green
crowns of podocarpus trees.

Elephant herds thundered
on this mountain once
scraped Kitum Cave with
           thrusting tusks
now their
         withered gray skins
are left for roaches
now burnt huts and
blackened rubble bear
Coca Cola bottle
  of human scale.

Look, you can't kill
all this life without resistance
somewhere along lines
                    of DNA and RNA leading
back in time,

back to our own
brooding progenitors
coming to in Eden,
new in the forest,
learning the art
of trapping fire
just getting their
brain cells wet.

You nailed the biggest
ones with ease
the huge in their lumbering grace
elephant clans
              thirsty water buffaloes
              bitten by fruit bats
no match for jeeps
night vision scopes automatic
rifles, even galaxies
of primal forest
are going under as
populations spawn.

Now villages in Zaire, Guinea, Sri Lanka
boil over into bloody death
first shotgun blasts
to the pineal
eyes running red
as unseen predator armies
                         open maws
sharks in feeding frenzy
multiply fission-like inside
besieged cities
               of liver lung and heart.

Man is meat to this thing
fluid a highway
AIDS a warning shot against the enemy
of human reproduction.

Somewhere earth fights back
will not go down without
clawing the faces of its destroyer.

It waits.

Inert mobility endowed with talent
for change,
           easy traveler, breath propelled
villagers afraid Ebola escapes from Grave

dance of microscopic sticks:
Ebola, little sisters of extermination
fire in the cells.

Michael Shorb was published in more than 100 poetry magazines and anthologies including Michigan Quarterly, The Sun, and The Kyoto Journal.  He was nominated for a Pushcart Poetry Award and won a Merit Award for the Franklin Christoph Poetry Contest. Michael succumbed to Gist, a rare form of cancer in August 2012. His book of poetry Whale Walker's Morning was published posthumously in Winter 2013, by Shabda Press.

Editor's note: Michael Shorb wrote this poem when the virus was running amuck in East Africa several years ago; his wife Judith Grogan-Shorb updated it for The New Verse News.