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On Misreading the Coronavirus Designation as CORVID-19

By Ned Balbo


The crow is an ill omen, carrion-eater, and a cheat.


No one knows when the pandemic will finally end.


We tend to use metaphors of war when threats descend past our defenses.


Of the seven strains known to science, only three pose mortal risk.


The Celts believed that crows escort the sun on its nightly orbit.


The Latin root refers to poisons: black elixirs.


Some describe them as organisms existing “at the edge of life.”


The Welsh might say, “A crow pierced him,” when they mean that someone’s died.


All life arose from what is known as the Last Universal Ancestor.


You can reduce but not eliminate the danger.


Crows are more inclined toward rumor than Athena could abide.


You can be their enemy or their friend. They’re thunder and lightning’s messengers.


Crows have congregated in roosts since long before recorded time.


In Babylon, the thirteenth month was named for the crow.


“Novel” indicates the virus was only recently discovered.


They recognize faces from high above and keep watch on what you do.


Cover your face and keep your distance. There’s no cure at the present time.


Once they start gathering in your yard, it’s not easy to get them to leave.


In native myth, Raven’s canoe is no larger than a pine needle, but he can expand it to contain the entire cosmos.




Ned Balbo is the author of six books, most recently 3 Nights of the Perseids (Richard Wilbur Award) and The Cylburn Touch-Me-Nots (New Criterion Poetry Prize), both published in 2019. Recently a visiting faculty member in Iowa State University’s MFA program in creative writing and environment, he has new poems out or forthcoming in The Shore, The American Journal of Poetry, Ginkgo Prize Ecopoetry Anthology 2019, Notre Dame Review, and elsewhere. More at