Thank you all for your patience as we prepared our next entry in the CHWP. I was on the road with my family, trying to stay ahead of the Oregon wildfires. We were very lucky, and we are glad to be home.
In this essay, Jennifer Kabat considers the intersections of unemployment and plants known as “weeds” or “invasive species,” and the ways both mirror ideas and concerns about moral hazard. Kabat argues that the idea of moral hazard is ambiguous in the way that a plant is not just “good” or “bad.” Unemployment, in the way of many types of plants that may be considered weeds, provides sustenance and balm in times of austerity—as long as you have the knowledge and the persistence to seek it out. I remember my mother being engaged in a battle against nettles encroaching on our yard, but now I buy them at the farmers market when I find them.
On a side note—if you have questions about the recipe, or anything publishing-related, I’ll be answering your questions one of these weeks. Please submit your questions below.
Wishing you all deliciousness and rain.—Erika Stevens, senior editor
“They bid thee crop a weed, thou pluckst a flower.” —Shakespeare, “Venus and Adonis,” 1593
Where to start? With a description of the questions, the screenshot, the language, the time? It is 4:44 a.m. For days I’ve been waking before dawn to file for unemployment, trying at stray times, and the government’s website crashes. It tells me to start over. I’m in bed. Blue light from my laptop illuminates my face. This day, April 2, is not my day, not the day designated for those with the first letter of my last name, but a day for those who couldn’t file on their day. The days on which anyone can make a claim are four: Thursday through Sunday. It is Thursday, and still the website stalls, as it will on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday because so many people are trying to apply. I see them all there with me in this moment—the screen, its glow—and picture them in their beds, with their spouses, their children, their coffee. They sit on steps, on stoops, at desks and tables, hunched over counters, staring at phones, laptops propped on books and ledges.
I try to register on my computer and my husband’s, using different browsers, racing against a clock before the screen reads, “Your session has timed out.” I think going faster will help, but that’s not it. The servers are overloaded. I take a screenshot to try to hold on to something.
I’ve got hundreds of them, at 12:48:45 p.m., 5:36:45 a.m., and 6:08:16 p.m. and 2:02:02 p.m. One day I screenshot all the failed attempts. Most days it’s just every few times, as if to prove to someone (who?) that I have been trying to file.
I go running in the afternoon, and a litany of plants accompanies me like saints’ names I repeat as I pass them on the road. The saints change each week as new leaves come in: dandelion, docks, and daisies; dead nettle and bittercress; prunella, also called “self-heal” and “heal-all.”
They whisper promises. The plants are of “roadsides, verges, waste places.” One is also “a weed of crevices between bricks and in cracked cement.”
Each time I begin the form I hold out some prayer, a hope, that this time is the time I get through. And, every time, the application crashes. In the top corner of my screen, Google helpfully offers: “Translate this page?” The translation is that 366,403 people in New York are also applying, also out of work. What also goes unsaid is that the Department of Labor’s site is written in a “largely extinct programming language.” A nearly lost language, COBOL, written in part by two women, Jean Sammet and Gertrude Tierney, in 1959.
The few times I reach the page for my direct deposit information, my heart lifts. I type in my bank account number. I click “continue.” Crash. Reload. Sign in. Crash.
Each time I begin again, the first page demands: “Are you . . .” “Have you . . .” “Do you . . .” “Do . . .” “You must . . .” A list of commands follows where the “you” is never named, never me, just implied.
Bittercress is named Barbarea vulgaris for St Barbara. “Vulgaris” means “common,” and she is the virgin martyr who’s the patron saint of miners and artillery fighters. She is invoked against thunder, lightning, and explosions, and her plant was used to soothe their burns. Its yellow flowers sit on my desk. It is one of the first mustards to bloom. The plant came to America around 1800. “It thrives as an opportunist.”
Capitalism requires unemployment. This is an economic law, and this law still exists as the “natural rate of unemployment,” where a certain percentage of the population must be out of work to keep inflation stable, to keep an economy from “overheating,” to keep us from paying our workers too much. What, though, is natural in these laws?
I ponder this one afternoon as I run along a stream, with its meanders and riffles, sinews and bends that conform to their own law. First described by Luna Leopold, hydrology is a universal law every stream and river and ocean current follows. Each behaves according to the same single equation.
Economic laws, though, are not ones of nature, unless we want our nature to be “supply-side”; that is, based on supply and demand. I am not in demand. I am an adjunct professor. I am a writer. I am idle. In being unemployed and applying for unemployment insurance, I am full of moral hazard—a phrase I love. It means unemployment insurance creates more unemployment simply by insuring against it.
The insurance supposedly makes it easier for an employer to fire their workers, and then those workers take longer to find new jobs. We become lazy; the insurance makes us lazy; the hazards cut both ways. But, I see the phrase as “the hazards of morals,” or “the morals in hazards,” not that the insurance leads to the danger against which it’s trying to protect. Or, that in writing this I am invoking the hazards. I might also be called an opportunist.
Capitalism’s morals seem specious given its cost-benefit analysis, where value leads to our values. The economy of self-interest, led by Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand,” terrifies me, this unseen force of our own selfishness and individualism that we all must obey. But, we don’t. So, if there is a natural rate of unemployment, if capitalism and our democracy demand that some people are unemployed, what are the rights of those without work? What does citizenship mean in this situation? Who pays for this sacrifice?
One solution floated in 1915 was to give people land.
I live on former farmland in the northernmost part of Appalachia, and my county is one of the poorest in New York State. There’s also a saying here: “two rocks for every dirt,” which shows how bad the soil is. In the 1840s, though, in the middle of a dire recession, the tenant farmers here revolted. They fought to redistribute the land as a way to redistribute wealth.
I never thought I could qualify for unemployment, being an adjunct and a writer; that is, as a liminal worker who falls outside the state protections. I teach only half a year. The other half I am self-employed—writing, which for a writer of essays is hardly “employment.” One year, after the semester ended, I tried applying for unemployment insurance and got to the first screen, with the question: “Have you been employed twenty-six weeks?” A semester is fifteen weeks. I gave up there.
The first country with unemployment insurance was the UK, and there it’s called the “dole.” The dole originally meant your apportionment of land or a field, your allotment, basically your share of the common good, the common lands, but its etymology conceals other meanings. Around the first millennia of the Common Era, it was also “the state of being divided.” Another phrase economists have used for the unemployed is to say we are “separated” from work. We too are divided.
Outside, the leaf litter smells sweet like cinnamon and sage. Along the road garlic mustard hugs the ground. The frilled, heart-shaped leaves are delicate and puckered like rain-splattered silk. Crush them and they have the pungent smell their name suggests. One of the earliest spring greens, they were brought for food and medicine by British colonizers. Rich in vitamins A and C, the leaves were used too to fight gangrene and dress wounds. The English called it “jack-by-the-hedge” for the terrain it favors, but here in the U.S. it grows in the edges, the waste areas, the ditches.
These weeds are “foreigners.” The language around them is what we use now to invoke walls and borders: aliens, non-native, invasive. Intruders.
___ is one of the few non-native __capable of invading and dominating __ communities. Its tolerance of ___, coupled with its high seed production and ability to spread rapidly, make __ a strong competitor. It diverts resources from __.
There’s also war, as if they’re leading a charge.
__ seems to spread by an advance-retreat pattern (also called jump dispersal); small vanguard populations, jumping ahead of the plant’s dense, ragged front, gradually coalesce to form a new front.
(Do I mention my conflict with garlic mustard? Or the pleasure I get eating it? How I crave it in spring? Or my confounded relationship; I love these weeds, yet ones like garlic mustard secrete chemicals into the ground that stun and kill other plants and trees.)
Online the form commands:
“Report . . .”
“Be accurate . . .”
“Be available . . .”
“Look . . .”
“Make . . .”
“Stop . . .”
“Read . . .”
“Avoid . . .” The next sentence tells me to “Do the right thing and follow the rules.”
If I don’t know those rules or have a question, I can call. “Representatives are here to help you.” But calling is ridiculous. No one will answer.
My husband’s application miraculously got through three days ago. When it did, a message on screen told him: “To complete your claim, you must call the Telephone Claims Center (TCC) and speak with a claims specialist to provide additional information.” He never reaches a specialist. He pushes the buttons that prompt him for information and they tell him in a mechanical voice, “Goodbye.”
On the first page of How to Stay Alive in the Woods, the author Bradford Angier writes:
Anyone at any time can suddenly find himself [sic] depending on his own resources for survival. [. . .] If you are not ready, it may cost your life. You may become lost or stranded in the woods. Thousands among North America’s more than 30 million annually licensed fishermen and hunters do every year, many fatally. [. . .] You may be in an automobile that is stalled by mishap or storm in an unsettled area, a not uncommon occurrence that frequently results in unnecessary hardship and tragedy. Perhaps you’ll be a passenger in an aircraft that has to make a forced landing. Perhaps you’ll be shipwrecked.
It may even happen that you and yours will be compelled to find sanctuary in the wilderness because of those ever increasing threats to civilization itself—an atom bomb catastrophe or the even more terrible microscopic foes of germ warfare.
He never says you might fall victim to capitalism.
The first chapter’s inscription comes from the Canadian mounted police and explains that “a party living off the country must know how to get full value from everything available especially in the way of food.” I have so many questions about this quote. It’s from the police, but what was the source, the context, the year? Angier’s book was first published in 1956, and I have this dazzling image of cops foraging, digging on their hands and knees. Then, there’s the word “party” and the phrase “full value,” assuming a relationship between humans and nature that is exploitative, extractive, capitalist. Maybe instead there’s an economics of the land that falls outside of capitalism.
In 1933 both sets of my grandparents lost their homes. My dad’s father lost his house and his store in rural Pennsylvania. He was getting paid in potatoes and cooked dinners. His creditors wouldn’t take potatoes or cooked dinners. A cross was burned on the lawn. He called his parents, my great-grandparents, and said either they took in my dad and aunt or they were going to the orphanage. My dad and his sister moved into their grandparents’ unheated attic in Pittsburgh.
That week, my dad wrote his father. He had just turned eight. It was nearly Christmas. He was given a game and a dollar. He signed his letter with fifty-four x’s that trail off the page at a raking angle. “When will you visit? Do you know where you’re going? And a thousand more kisses too, Bobby.”
Unemployment wouldn’t be passed for another two years.
All parts of garlic mustard are edible: roots, leaves, seeds, flowers. Another name for it is “sauce alone” because it needs no dressing. It’s tasty enough on its own. Outside, chickweed growing in the patio cracks returns to life, the tips going green. There is sun then snow. Salads of trout lily, daylily, sheep sorrel, bittercress, prunella. Most are “invasive.”
Rumex crispus, curly dock, is said to be one of the five most widely distributed plants in the world. It is one of seventeen kinds of dock plants in the U.S. I cook them with garlic.
My mother’s parents both came from hardscrabble farms. They worked shifts in the Akron tire factories. After they lost their home, the family survived on my grandfather’s vegetable garden and food an uncle gave them—and weeds.
Euell Gibbons, who wrote Stalking the Wild Asparagus, the first major book on foraging, in 1962, kept his family alive in the Depression by foraging. He was a teenager.
I read that DNA stores trauma, epigenetic memories, from previous generations, parents and grandparents. My mother scoffed at my eating weeds. I believe, though, the land remembers. I remember. The soil, plants, and rocks remember.
By this time in early April of waking and applying at 4:44 a.m., I have the answers for each page memorized. Yes, no, yes, no, no, followed by seven more noes. One set of questions is for those who work at “an educational institution,” for which I must click “yes.” If “yes,” is this a customary vacation between terms, recess . . . Have you been promised a verbal or written offer? Crash.
Do I work for a family member? No, but if I did, the system wants to know, is that family member a parent, a spouse?
I advance to another screen. I am timed out.
By this time, these times, so many times, now the time is 7:47 a.m., and my neck is stiff from all the repeated attempts. The day is April 4. I am hungry. My husband has brought me coffee three times. This week, across the country, 6,606,000 people have applied.
I pick dock. I pick chickweed. I drive an hour and a half to get tested. I roll down my window. A woman covers my car door in a plastic trash bag to avoid touching it. She tells me to pull down my mask. I thank her profusely for standing outside in the cold and rain and for leaning into my car.
April 5: My husband wakes up and carries the telephone handset around the house for seven and three-quarters hours until the system hangs up on him. It has no hold music to let you know you are on hold. Another 345,246 have registered in New York.
The sun rises.
This time is also the time of early spring. Its first flowers are ephemerals. The blooms are delicate, small. They appear on the forest floor where deciduous trees have yet no leaves, so there’s enough light for the plants. Most, too, are edible.
The garlic mustard stalks shoot up, and as they do, the pungent taste disappears. I find nettles on the fallow land next door and think of the people who lived here. Docks with their thick red veins grow below the farm’s old water troughs. I picture Muriel, who grew up here, and her dad and my dad. She died just after my father, and her father Ralph Scott had prize-winning Ayrshire cows. They roamed where I now live. I find pictures of them in the local paper: 1949 and 1951. He poses in the Dugan and Taber feed ad: “The farm averages 9,700 gallons of milk at 432 pounds of fat per cow. Mr. Scott feeds his entire dairy our Milk Mix.” My dad spent his life working to organize rural cooperatives, starting in upstate New York a few months before Muriel’s dad appeared in the paper.
Before Muriel’s father and grandfather, Augustus Kittle farmed here. He fought to redistribute the land in 1844. He was a populist and a socialist and probably an abolitionist. He named his first son Lincoln in 1864, when the Civil War was unpopular in New York State. I want the land to remember. I want this, them, us, we, to all be connected as I scramble across the stone walls where the nettles grow. Red buds throb on the maples and the grass comes in though there are no cows to eat it anymore. The roof on the barn is collapsing, and I think of the lichen on the rocks, and the thousands of years it lives, and the life it brings as it breaks down the minerals for the soil. Garlic mustard grows around the old farmhouse. Each plant produces 15,000 seeds.
It was brought to North America probably in the 1600s, but the first place it was catalogued was Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 1870. That year, Kittle’s son, Lincoln, was six; his daughters Mary, Eleanor, and Eunis were fifteen, thirteen, and ten. The census lists: “The name of every person whose place of abode on the first day of June, 1870, was in this family.” That same day, someone named M. Ruger in Brooklyn decided garlic mustard was worthy of recording. I find on Google Maps the address where he identified it. It’s two blocks from Prospect Park. I’ve been telling my friends to go there to find weeds. In an 1872 map of Brooklyn, the spot where M. Ruger found the mustard is a large plot of land with one tiny dot, for a single dwelling. Now at that address there is Express Tax Service and Coolwear and Jen’s Roti Shop. I send my friends photos of plants and lists of names and nutrient values.
“Please have a pen and paper ready when you call. The claims specialist will obtain the necessary information . . .” “Your rights and responsibilities . . .”
The MFA program where I teach announced it was closing three weeks before New York went into lockdown. Other jobs rose and disappeared. Ephemeral.
By the time I get to the end of this essay, I will know if I will be laid off from my other teaching job too.
One ephemeral blooming by my compost pile helps with anxiety and panic attacks if it is made into a tincture.
Online I reach the page asking for “Job Title” and “Job Description.”
“Do you teach courses in . . .” “teach courses pertaining to . . .” “teach courses . . .” “teach . . . ” “teach . . .” Session timed out.
The next time I reach this screen, I am, I decide, the ninth line down: “Art, Drama and Music teachers postsecondary” where I “teach courses in drama, music, and the arts including fine and applied art, such as painting and sculpture or design and the arts.”
There is no option for teaching writing or criticism. There’s also no choice for literature. So I click “Art.” I do teach art writing. The other closest possibility: “Teach courses in foreign (i.e. other than English) languages and literature.” While I pondered this list, my session timed out.
That I teach feels like a privilege: my grandparents in the factories, my parents’ scholarships and savings, so that I could study art history and writing and be a writer, so I could have enough security to be poorly employed.
Rumex, curly and flat dock, tastes bitter and green. It is “imported.” Sheep sorrel (also of the genus Rumex) has a brilliant, sharp lemony taste. Sorrel comes from “sour,” and Swinburne included it in a poem he dedicated to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. He asks if he should throw meadowsweet or sorrel upon his reader.
I find it growing, concealed in the grass.
Early in How to Stay Alive in the Woods Angier quotes Thoreau promising that “‘What people say you cannot do, you try and find you can.’” There’s also the section titled: “Sustenance in the Silent Places” where I feel it’s not opportunism but something quieter, something sustaining, that I will learn from the plants.
I also learned from Angier about the wild rose. It was after I’d been lost in the woods in the snow, the day before Halloween. I’d been hiking with my husband. Dusk settled. We would touch each tree for trail markers until the last of the light was gone. The hemlock limbs hid any starlight. There was no cell service. I wore jeans. That morning a sign at a trailhead had warned Cotton Kills. Wet denim can cause hypothermia. We had saved our last bit of food, four miniature Snickers bars from the bags of candy we’d bought to give neighborhood kids.
Angier told me to look for rose hips in autumn. He asks, “Can you remember when you weren’t aware that from these blossoms develops a berrylike fruit?” I can indeed remember.
The wild rose is not wild at all. It was brought to the U.S. in 1886 as grafting material for other roses, prettier roses, roses that go into people’s gardens. I read somewhere else: “Highway engineers planted it as crash barriers and to reduce headlight glare.” Later the rose was used to make “living fences.”
The weeds keep me alive. I don’t mean I would starve without them, though they provide for me. Eating them, they become part of me, and I am part of the land.
“What is a weed,” Emerson asked. It was 1878 and his last public address in Boston. He was talking about the U.S. and said a weed was a plant not yet useful, “whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” He was specifically talking about cotton and the Civil War, an allusion, I assume, to the global economics of cotton contributing to the war. He said there were some 200,000 weeds waiting for an engineer to tame and control them. “Time will yet bring an inventor to every plant. There is not a property in Nature but a mind is born to seek and find it. . . . The infinite applicability of these things in the hands of thinking man [sic], every new application being equivalent to a new material.”
Where he sees a weed, he sees capitalism, industry, men, sheer will, and control.
What is a weed? Mine are relics of colonialism. Most of the ones I eat are here because someone once believed they were useful.
The U.S. now spends around four billion dollars a year to kill weeds on crops.
The oxeye daisy is sweet and spicy, like a salad green. It is a “dangerous ornamental,” the National Park Service warns. It is “rhizomatous, creeping.” Its leaves come in on my lawn in tiny rosettes with scalloped edges.
White Europeans coming to America carried with them capitalism and colonialism and Christianity as well as these seeds, weeds, and roots. Those c’s came with notions of progress and growth and forward movement and linear time and farming in lines, like endless one-point perspective, like sentences moving from left to right and the way lines and cells get filled in on my screen. To bring a plant is to see the land as empty, vacant, ready to fill in. It is not to see who lives here, who has lived here, it is not to see Native America and its citizens and their relationships to the land and plants and place.
The weeds like mugwort or Queen Anne’s lace also carry with them a secret history of resistance. Mugwort is a rhizome. It grows horizontally, up from nodes and nodules. It is the woman’s herb, the witch’s herb, and I think of the women who must have brought it with them, for its power to bring dreams and awareness and menstruation and abortions, to help with menopause and cancer. Its dead stalks from last summer stand guard now by the roadsides. At the base, the leaves sprout with silvery undersides and the smell of rosemary and pine. Queen Anne’s lace, with its long taproot, is a wild carrot, but that’s not why it’s here, or not the whole reason. It’s birth control. The seeds: the morning-after pill. I think of the women carrying the seeds as they leave for the “new” world, nothing new in it. It had been here all along. I picture these women terrified, too, unsure what awaits. But living under patriarchy, wouldn’t you want birth control?
It is late afternoon; the sun angles low and long, glistening with golden light on the ridge outside. This week more than 5,000,000 people across the country are trying to claim unemployment. 1,121,191 people in my state alone apply. I think about the numbers: the 91, the one, each of us, one person, all people, together. I try the Department of Labor’s form again, in its nearly extinct language. I reach the sign-in again, my four-letter password again. The questions again. It’s 5:48 p.m. Everyone, everywhere, at this moment clicking “continue.” My laptop rests on the kitchen counter, balanced on statements from my health insurer. I get to the screen asking for my bank information. I tell my husband to get the checkbook. “Run . . . hurry,” I wave. I type the numbers fast as I can. I click “continue.” I’m not timed out. The page advances. I reach the one asking me to read my address and account numbers again to make sure they’re right. I click “continue.” I have made it to the final page. I hold my breath and wait and hope for the magic, the belief that this time is the time. I expect “session timed out.” The form goes through.
CONFIRMATION PAGE appears on my screen in lilac all-caps.
*** IMPORTANT—PRINT THIS PAGE*** comes bracketed by three asterisks like daisies.
I can’t focus on the words. I jump up and down like a game show contestant. I punch the air. I whoop. I text my sisters. On the screen are directions. I must claim credit. I must read . . . I must certify . . .
I take another screen shot because I’m terrified I’ll forget whatever these things are that I must do.
The plants that night are daylily tubers and dandelions for their tender, pale, young leaves. “Blanched” is the word for them growing underground.
Under “reminders,” the screenshot says: “FIND A JOB”
I am told to read the booklet “UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: A Bridge to Your Next Career.” A photo of a bridge graces the cover to make the point literal. The bridge is new and named for Mario Cuomo.
UI supposedly creates unemployment, but capitalism demands it. Capitalism needs losers, and those most vulnerable from the last recession were this year finally getting work. Even the treasury secretary says he is “heartbroken” about this. At the end of April, he will plead with Congress to do more.
Inside the book with the bridge, I am told:
You must report any work. [. . .] “Work” means any service you performed for a business or person on any day in the week, even if it was only for an hour or less. This includes work you did in self-employment or on a freelance basis, even if you were not paid.
See Chapter 6: “H_o_w_ _d_o_ _I_ _c_l_a_i_m_ _w_e_e_k_l_y_ _b_e_n_e_f_i_t_s_?_” _for further explanation.
Is writing work?
According to the “further explanation”:
“Some examples . . . including but not limited to: writing checks . . . writing or responding to . . .or, any other tasks.”
There is also: “Performing duties or favors . . .Working as a building superintendent, An internship and/or externship. . . . All activity for which you receive non-monetary compensation.”
Is writing employment? Is it the self? Is it moral? Is it opportunism or survival?
There are more cells and rows to click, “to certify,” to “continue” . . . as I cross that bridge to my new career.
I get to write this because I’m on unemployment, but that is the hazard too.
These words and ideas are messy, and maybe that is a victory. Writing this is a kind of marginalia that might be forbidden or that might flourish in the gaps. Here, I’m getting to an economy of the weed, of the rhizome, of the taproot, of the wind pollination, of the bisexual plants that can choose what they need, and of the way I am enmeshed in the plants and see in them a lens on capitalism and colonialism. The plant itself is a palimpsest that collapses those histories. It’s a philosophy of the disturbed earth and waste places and cracks in the pavement.
“What is a weed?” Emerson asks, and this is my answer. The year he gave his address, the country was in a bitter recession, the Long Depression that ran from the 1870s until the 1890s. Poor farmers and sharecroppers were getting screwed over by banks and merchants and the railways. In the South, black and white farmers banded together as the Farmers’ Alliance and created common cause with striking railway workers and factory workers. The class solidarity wasn’t based on race or where one worked or if one was urban or rural. Together they called themselves Populists and started the People’s Party and demanded socialist reforms. The poor dirt farmers here on my land had too. Augustus Kittle had been part of that. They had linked their peonage as tenant farmers to all peonage. They campaigned for women’s suffrage, a ten-hour workday, to protect immigrants, and for abolition.
Now on this land, I eat the weeds, and they are part of me. It is a parataxis of place and plants, and history flattens out. It’s no longer linear, no longer progress, no longer the winners and losers. The day the Department of Labor writes telling me I will get $143 a week, I read that the total costs of introduced weeds to the U.S. economy is about $20.5 billion annually. One hundred and forty-three dollars seems impossible to survive on, and I’m grateful for the extra $600 a week from the government because of the pandemic. That afternoon, I find pigweed outside my house in the vegetable garden.
The plant’s fleshy, thick stalks go from pink to pale yellow, with yellow-veined leaves. It is a plant of waste places, construction sites, gravel pits, and railway embankments. It is also “anthropophilic.” It follows people. It is bisexual, a wind pollinator, a self-pollinator. Each plant produces 75,000 seeds that survive for forty years. The one in my garden is a recumbent pigweed. It lies flat; it is idle, I think. It’s also called careless weed. I rub its damp leaves between my fingers. I think the plant might be salvation too. Saara Nafici, an urban farmer in Red Hook, writes that it’s an amaranth, one of those ancient grains now venerated. It is Roundup resistant. You can’t kill it with glyphosate. She says, too, that it performs C4 carbon fixation, a way of absorbing more carbon, more easily. This makes the plants drought and heat resistant. Three percent of all plants have this ability, and yet C4 plants make up nearly a quarter of all carbon fixation on earth. I hold the sprig to the light. The veins glow like a stained glass window. I eat a leaf and then another. They taste of chard with the bitterness of young spinach. As I come to the end of this essay, there will be more than forty million Americans unemployed.
 John Eastman, The Book of Field and Roadside: Open-Country Weeds, Trees and Wildflowers of Eastern North America (Mechanicsburg, PA.: Stackpole Books, 2003), 288.
 Patrick McGeehan, “He Needs Jobless Benefits. He Was Told to Find a Fax Machine.” The New York Times, April 16, 2020. Accessed May 13, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/nyregion/coronavirus-ny-unemployment-benefits.html.
 Field and Roadside, 244.
 Most of the cost for paying out unemployment is leveraged on employers. In paying out unemployment claims, money is either taken out of a company’s unemployment account, or their assessed unemployment tax rate goes up. Or, sometimes both, depending on the state. Meanwhile, employees generally receive a paltry sum, hardly equal to their wages.
 Field and Roadside, 199.
 Bradford Angier, How to Stay Alive in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Food, Shelter, and Self-Preservation That Makes Starvation in the Wilderness Next to Impossible (New York: Fireside, 1998. First published 1956), 11.
 Xu, Z.; Feng Z.; Yang, J.; Zheng, J.; and Zhang, F. “Nowhere to Invade: Rumex crispus and Typha latifolia Projected to Disappear under Future Climate Scenarios.” PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e70728. Published July 29, 2013. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070728; Field and Roadside, 128.
 I think it’s important to note that while this crisis is the first time I’ve ever been able to qualify for unemployment, I have received many benefits from the government, benefits that could be seen as block grants for whiteness. A decade after my parents married, they bought a house. That house begat another house where I grew up. Its value was passed down, value that let me afford my own house. These houses all represent government subsidies for the middle class, mostly the white middle class.
 D. L. Leedy, Highway-Wildlife Relationships. Vol. 1. A State of the Art Report. (Washington, DC: The Federal Highway Department, December 1975), 60. Federal Highway Administration. FCP 33F2-182 P. O. 5-30189.
 David Pimentel, “Pesticides Applied for the Control of Invasive Species in the United States.” Integrated Pest Management, 2014, ScienceDirect. Accessed on May 9, 2020.
 “A Dangerous Ornamental: Oxeye Daisy,” Lassen Volcanic National Park California, NPS. Accessed May 11, 2020.
 Christopher Condon, Craig Torres, and Steve Matthews, “Powell Says More Action Needed to Shield U.S. Economy from Virus,” Bloomberg. April 29, 2020. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-29/fed-sees-medium-term-pandemic-risks-keeps-zero-rate-pledge
 Field and Roadside, 179.
 Saara Nafici, “Weed of the Month: Pigweed,” Brooklyn Botanic Garden website, August 12, 2017. Accessed 5/11/20. https://www.bbg.org/news/weed_of_the_month_pigweed.
A Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant recipient for her criticism, Jennifer Kabat has published essays in the Best American Essays, Granta, Harper’s, BOMB, Frieze, McSweeney’s, the New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Believer and the White Review. Recently she received a Silvers Foundation Grant for a work in progress. She often collaborates with artists, including with Marlene McCarty on a project exploring capitalism, modernism and invasive weeds in Buffalo. She teaches in the Art Writing MFA at SVA and is working on a book about grief and modernism. She is also an apprentice herbalist and serves as a volunteer firefighter in her town in rural upstate New York.
Photo by Marcel Breuer. Sweater is from “Congratulations and Celebrations,” by Ellen Lesperance, (2015-ongoing).