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Poetry Moment: 'Graphic, In Case,' by Vernita Hall

Vernita Hall
Vernita Hall

This is Poetry Moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, author of 20 books, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.

Welcome to Poetry Moment.

March 11, 2020—the day doctors Fauci and Redfield testified about the coronavirus before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the day—according to NPR—“the pandemic future arrived [in the US] all at once.” Poet Vernita Hall remembers those early weeks well. She checked the Worldometer website daily.

Her poem, “Graphic, In Case,” takes the shape of a steep graph documenting rising cases. In addition—with the title’s double meaning— she considers metaphorical precautions she might take “in case” Covid cases continue to rise.

A lifelong Philadelphian, 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 Robert Creeley Prize (Marsh Hawk Press) and The Hitchhiking Robot Learns About Philadelphians, winner of the Moonstone Press Chapbook Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, African American Review, Barrow Street, The Common, River Styx, Solstice, The Hopkins Review, Arts & Letters, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and serves on the poetry review board of Philadelphia Stories. 

Please view the sharp incline of the poem “Graphic, In Case.” The shape fuels the poem’s sense of urgency. So, too, do the metaphors that Vernita Hall employs. She explains, “[a] good friend joked that maybe he should get some lamb's blood and paint the front door lintel with it. It struck me that the Passover was an ideal metaphor for that threat and fear, as well as [for] the desire to protect loved ones from the angel of death.”

Here’s “Graphic, In Case”

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After the Worldometer linear graph, showing over three million global cases of COVID-19
After the Worldometer linear graph, showing over three million global cases of COVID-19

That was “Graphic, In Case” by Vernita Hall. Thanks for listening. 

Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox, Mondays, during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.