Going Viral

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Zohar Atkins


In the beginning was the virus
and the virus was God
and the virus was with God

said the virus said the virus 
said God

one of us said.


One of us said 
it is neither
living nor dead.

The virus reminds us
now is an afterlife

for which there aren’t
enough beds.


The angels cannot afford
more ventilators.

Nephilim hoard sanitizer
one of us said

The virus has spread.


Heaven would break
from too much righteousness
one of us said.

The wise are condemned
to isolation, goodness placed
in quarantine.


The thinkers, on the front lines
of history, are contaminated

though they only show
mild symptoms.

The trouble with reality
is there’s no time
to test it—

thus the lag
the measurable

and the true
one of us said.


Each new movement
refinances the debt
of older movements
one of us said.

Revelation a stimulus bill
to save us from Creation’s bust
one of us said.


One of us said
the virus is a clue
to our ignorance.


Our opinions spread like a virus
forcing us to assume each of us
is a carrier of some disease
and some remedy

so that language became a sign
of our herd immunity

and only the silent were outcast.

One of us said.


In hindsight, the beginning was seasonal.
We developed a cure 
and returned to godless normalcy.

But the virus knew we’d return.

One of us said.

Zohar Atkins is the founder of Etz Hasadeh and a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He holds a DPhil in Theology from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and semikha from JTS. He is the author of An Ethical and Theological Appropriation of Heidegger’s Critique of Modernity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and Nineveh (Carcanet, 2019). He is the author of a weekly d'var Torah newsletter: