Gotham cannot sleep. The city toils
overnight to bury its dead. Collected
four at a time, New Yorkers are stacked
like cordwood, names compiled, and bodies
piled into a Black Mariah. Grim though
the job is, the apartment blocks must
be emptied of the dead whose lives
were taken by plague. Twenty
thousand—maybe more—are gone. Their
bodies interred in a mass grave dug
by prisoners from Rikers Island.

The city is in crisis; the governor asks
his citizens to hold on. But neighbors
wretch at the smell of ethanethiol,
the trace element designed to be
a warning to us all.

Alleyways, kitchenettes, brownstones,
and walk-ups. A decrepit stairwell serves
as a morgue. It is as if all the nameless
faces are alien. Still, the pauper’s grave—
the place where the unloved go
to be buried—is full of names not found
on the yellowed pages of the tabloids. This
travesty will continue until the printers run
out of ink. And the mayor cries out with
a ghostly holler, for he knows that no one
should leave this life unnoticed or alone.