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Joe Hall

Joe Hall's writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, HTMLGiant, Octopus, Hayden's Ferry Review, Versal, and elsewhere. Black Ocean Press published his first book of poems, Pigafetta Is My Wife.


"A genuinely fine work, moving beautifully between Magellan's voyage — the ethics therein, with language informed by discovery literature — and a series of epistles, taking the notion of circumnavigation to an unforeseeable confessional level."

– Dan Beachy-Quick

"Almost impossibly grand in scope Pigafetta Is My Wife is a rare achievement and quite a debut."

– Sally Keith



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Pigafetta Is My Wife

I Don't Cry Loudly, Nor Do I Cry for Very Long


Dear Joe,

I admit that travel, the departure and arrival associated with it, sometimes makes me weepy. If I cry, I usually cry on airplanes, most often during take-off and landing, and especially if I am reading a book. I cried on the flight home from Russia a few summers ago when I finished reading Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov. I cried on a flight to Houston last year — I was traveling on my own, was deliriously winging my way home to my wife — when I finished Stoner by John Williams. And I cried while reading your book on the flight out of Denver in the late winter of 2010.

I don’t cry loudly, nor do I cry for very long. I doubt any other passengers suspect my sadness. My wife has not noticed my occasionally crying on flights, and she usually sits next to me. No, instead, I tear up and flush red. My heart yank-yanks just a little bit harder. And yet, I feel embarrassed. There’s something about the modernity of travel, now, that discourages us from emoting. It’s very hard to feel normal when crying in the midst of hundreds of other people, each sitting still and forward, trapped in a miraculous tube at altitudes far beyond our comprehension.

No, I want to celebrate travel, distances, meridians, departure and arrival.  I want to celebrate the sadness of circumnavigation, and what better way to do so than to invoke the spirit of Antonio Pigafetta. What better way than to read of you and Cheryl, of your struggles to navigate 665 miles, the 665 miles between Indiana and D.C. To read:

. . . If prayers
are swift, deranged birds
I am letting them loose from the decks of my body

Look for them. Two years
& more promised, seven months

apart, what gifts are there
to give? A ring

To describe your finger or another book
in which to write what is your pleasure or

Dear Joe,

Hello? the tools to bind a book

& how much flesh is the book?
& how much bread is the book? 

If it is possible to enjoy the sadness of distance and extension, possible to share that joy of sadness with others, then too it is possible to realize that, in many cases, the anticipation of our arrival tempers such sadness, producing around it a relieving corona.

And outside, I see clouds passing beneath me.



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