Matters of Life and Death

  • Today I woke up without my face,
  • my mind so deep in thought
  • confusion is all I know
  • and I am conflicted.
  • I wrote my will today
  • and it read
  • “I can’t breathe long enough to finish this line”
  • so here is its extension—
  • I look for lines in a poem to seek security,
  • closure for the parts of me that can’t sleep
  • and at night I juggle thoughts like I am Atlas
  • and I hold the world on my shoulders.
  • My mind is a cloudy day
  • and I can’t help but wonder what does the future hold.
  • Two plagues cross my head
  • and I am not sure which I fear most.
  • But today I plan to challenge one,
  • ironically I am inviting both plagues to supper
  • one with a banner
  • and the other with a mask.
  • Today we say no,
  • today we say not again,
  • today we say never again,
  • today we speak while we can still breathe.

“Matters of Life and Death” is a poem by Yohanes Mulat and attempts to capture today’s frustrations and fears when it comes to balancing the risk of the Coronavirus and the desire to participate in protests.

Yohanes Mulat is an undergraduate student at WashU majoring in Political Science and Religious Studies. He currently uses his free time to research for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and continue his passion for writing poetry.

Reflection Questions

  • In what ways do the speaker’s words resonate with you in this poem?
  • What emotional, social, physical, or mental methods do you use to move through cycles of uncertainty?
  • What inner dualities are you currently experiencing? How do you engage with those?

Engage with these questions on social media using #ThisCivicMoment.

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