The Sixty Second Historian Lecture Series, #8
by Christopher Locke
Hey, when it comes to fully understanding the History of the Western World, I’ll admit I’m no Ron Jeremy. But I have my moments. Take, for example, the 14th century. In Europe during that time there was a certain little annoyance known as The Black Death. It's also been called shit like The Bubonic Plague, or The Great Pestilence. Or as my ex-girlfriend put it that one night we all got the crabs: This Party Totally Blows Donkey Cock.
And like any typical Rick Santorum campaigner or meth-addled Jehovah's Witness, The Bubonic spent most of its waking hours kind of creeping around and canvassing door-to-door. Yet instead of pumping copies of The Watchtower through your mail slot while you hid in the bathroom clutching your television remote, The Plague stood patiently outside on your porch (or on whatever it was those pretentious Europeans stood on back then, bidets or whatnot), sucking on a couple of Tic-Tacs, and said it wasn’t leaving until it powned the lives of at least half your family.
Ever see Glengarry Glen Ross? This is how Alec Baldwin learned about brass balls.
And the thing is, as the bodies began piling up, great changes were already underfoot for both sides. And by “both” I mean: 1) the noble classes, and 2) those bellyachers known as “the serfs”; I mean, seriously, stop yammering about your boil-encrusted necks or whatever, and just take a Rolaids like the rest of us! I’m sure Gargamel would have worked something out for you little guys.
Anyhow, the serfs figured out that with all these disgusting dead guys lying around that that meant there were less people to work the fields, and they could now probably ask for more money from the nobles—after all, if the nobles didn’t pay what they wanted, the serfs could fucking screw town and go work at another rich guy’s castle because half of that dude’s serfs had died and he too now needed help with all that dumb harvesting crap. I know hindsight’s 20/20, but Nancy Reagan got it all wrong: to just say no meant you would have to take all that corn, or rye, or oats, or other weird crop you had out in your stupid field and kiss it all goodbye. Yep, like the prosecution said to my priest that one day: You better not drop the soap, fucker.
People say that in its own crazy way, The Bubonic ushered in a whole new economic system, that it ended feudalism as we know it and birthed the early days of capitalism. These people have never been to Mexico. But in the end, remember, those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Take, for example, the prophetic warning envisioned by soothsayer/herbalist Mr. Snoop Lion. He was all gin and juice and fat-ass Js, but then totally went off about, wait for it…“Bubonic Chronic,” saying that it certainly was not something to joke about. But did we listen?
Christopher Locke is the Nonfiction Editor of Slice magazine in Brooklyn. He's published normal stuff in magazines such as The North American Review, Verse Daily, Southwest Review, Poetry East, Arc (Canada), The Nervous Breakdown, 32 Poems, Mudlark, West Branch, Rattle, The Literary Review, Ascent, The Sun, Connecticut Review, Gargoyle, Upstreet, Agenda (London), Southeast Review, and on both National Public Radio and Ireland’s Radio One. He's received two Dorothy Sargent Poetry Awards as well as grants in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, New Hampshire Council on the Arts, and Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain). His first full-length collection of poems, “End of American Magic,” was released by Salmon Poetry in 2010. “Waiting for Grace & Other Poems” (Turning Point Books) and the collection of essays “Can I Say” (Kattywompus Press) were both released in 2013. His most recent poetry chapbook has been accepted by Finishing Line Press.