Vernita Hall


Vernita Hall is the author of Where William Walked: Poems About Philadelphia and Its People of Color, winner of the Willow Books Grand Prize and of the Robert Creeley Prize from Marsh Hawk Press; and The Hitchhiking Robot Learns About Philadelphians, winner of the Moonstone Press Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous anthologies and journals, including American Poetry Review, African American Review, Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, Mezzo Cammin, Solstice, and The Cortland Review. With fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center and Ucross, Hall holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and serves on the poetry review board of Philadelphia Stories.


To: George Carlin’s Fleas

From: King Covid XIX I hoist no flag yet legions follow me I claim no land yet millions take the knee Without appeal I take all prisoner — princes presidents prime ministers Neither feckless foe nor primitive I crept past dream invaded while you slept an enemy that won’t negotiate will not deal Watch the revelation I’ll reveal Consider this reckoning: I bend toward apocalypse the telltale horsemen I am your night terrors the last word I am the second coming and the third I insinuate You hoard and bicker I proliferate As you grow sicker I’ll swarm the seat of power while you mourn your halcyon days before my storm While steward you appointed yourself master squandered all treasures sped the earth clock faster But I helm this realm today do as I please I own the dogs of war — you’re just their fleas

This virus is an equal opportunity assailant. Age, gender, nationality, class, position, we’re all fair game. Reading about the many people falling victim is frightening—and humbling. Made me remember George Carlin (not) joking that once the planet got tired of us humans, it would just ‘shake us off like a bad case of fleas.’ Fleas put me in mind of Shakespeare’s dogs of war (in Julius Caesar). I’m wondering if, in response to all our nonsense, the Earth is finally starting to scratch.