- Coulehan, Jack
- Date of entry: Apr-19-2002
The epigram for this collection of sonnets is a quotation from Alfred Cosby's The Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918: "Nothing else--no infection, no war, no famine--has ever killed so many in as short a period." Speaking in many different voices, Ellen Voigt evokes the great epidemic through the eyes and experience of various Americans--a soldier, his fiancée, orphaned children, a doctor, and a host of grieving family.
The infection is quick and ruthless. "Within the hour the awful cough began, / gurgling between coughs, and the fever spiked . . . / Before a new day rinsed the windowpane, / he had swooned. Was blue." (p. 22) Doctors were out on the road working day and night to no avail: "it didn't matter which turn the old horse took: / illness flourished everywhere . . . " (p. 38) Soon, coffins were scarce: "With no more coffins left, why not one wagon / plying all the shuttered neighborhoods, / calling for the dead, as they once did . . . " (p. 53) At last, the influenza receded: " . . . at the window, / every afternoon, toward the horizon, / a little more light before the darkness fell." (p. 55)
W. W. Norton