The Virus

Skloot, Floyd

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Sep-16-1997


The author knows that the virus's attack "is not personal." His individuality means nothing to the virus. Yet, for three years he has been ill, he has been "occupied by an unseen / enemy," he has lost control. Thus, being human, he must take it personally.

In fact, as a result of the infection, he is no longer the self he once was, but has seen "the banks / of self erode." Though the virus has changed the story of the writer's life, the virus does not really need him "to live any more than faith / needs a body of truth / to thrive." [50 lines]


This poem is an interesting reflection on the relationship between agent and host in chronic illness. Skloot assumes (quite reasonably) that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a viral infection. The infection has changed his life, forced him to re-write his own story, yet it doesn't have a story of it's own. The virus in itself is neither dead nor alive; it has no "meaning" in itself, only the ability to alter "meaning" in its host's life. The poet provides this epigram: "Virus: a Latin word meaning poison that disturbs the soul."

Primary Source

Music Appreciation


Univ. Press of Florida

Place Published

Gainesville, Fla.