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The Plague at the Margins of My Research


Airport, morning. Mostly empty.

What do I say about this plague? I’m afraid of losing my job. Aren’t we all? Or already unemployed, perhaps sick. Fixating on door knobs, narratives of touch and transmission. Well, no one I know is playing the stock market, aroused by the blood in the water.

It’s true the Black Death created a labor shortage and this is what destroyed the feudal system. This is a fact I know and don’t know what to do with as I stare at the empty shelves of the Rite Aid at the corner of Delaware and Delavan. This is the fifth drugstore I’ve been to today after a doctor told me to take my temperature, after I was on a flight from Phoenix to Detroit, returning from a wedding with a runny nose and sore throat while someone seated next to my wife puked in their germ mask.

This plague has already created mass unemployment in some states. I didn’t get a thermometer until a friend heard about my problem and left one, wrapped in a Clorox wrap, in my mailbox.

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About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.

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