HOW VIRULENT by Jane McPhetres Johnson

Jane McPhetres Johnson commuted from Wyoming to complete Goddard’s MFA, later created Humanities programs, and now is picking up where she left off when motherhood interrupted post-MFA plans. An Amherst resident and Straw Dog member, she has published poems in journals, anthologies, and e-mags, including “What Rough Beast” and “Not My President.”


the sub-microscopic virus
potent and dangerous, yet
so mind-stretchingly tiny
maybe 100 nanometers
when one nm (short for
“never mind” or “nothing
much” in cell conversation)
is merely one billionth
of a meter long

and it can of course go
viral, as they say, coming
as it does, from the Latin
for “toxin” or “poison”
and having no cells itself
no living walls to contain it
so that it must invade
yours, feed upon your cells
dine on your DNA

to make even more virulent
invaders, the smallest and
simplest of all life forms
if they are life forms, or just
bits of information, armed to
embrace your cells, break in
with invisible waves of hungry
homeless, uninsured, unpaid
unmasked spit, snot, and tears.