The fever is starting to bloom inside my body. I want to embrace the warmth but my fear is telling me I should worry.
The ache in my throat seems like I swallowed a small robin, its soft wings fluttering about in my larynx. I imagine coughing out feathers, but I open my mouth and I can barely hear my voice.
YOU FUCKING IDIOT, my sister screams while I listen to her disinfect and disrobe after two days at the emergency room. I am miles away from family and her voice sounds farther away the more she gives me a litany of medicines to take.
In a pandemic that has gripped the world, trust me to be a complete pillock. A pea-brain. A dunderhead. I have completely lost my bearings, navigating my pushcart in a sardine-packed supermarket the other evening, looking for my sister, getting whatever my hand could reach—chopped ham, lentils, chicken soup, fish crackers, hand wipes, two bottles of olive oil, linguine, jalapeños—before I hear a voice: is that your doomsday stash? I suppose it is.
Isn’t it enough, the grief I had to live with for awhile. Isn’t it enough, with the volcano raining ash on the city. Isn’t it enough to listen to him say, I don’t think it’s working. Isn’t it enough that I cry seeing Italians sing from balconies. Isn’t it enough that I know how joy can last a mere two seconds and yet understand that it was all worth it?
And isn’t it enough that the mind’s caliper
widens to take in a log, can also
accommodate the hollow bones of a blackbird
flying elliptically to pinion a field,
does not overlook the sun bleaching the sky,
or how pinecone trees effloresce
into a highrise of spiny sea urchins and then
handgrenades frozen at the moment of explosion,
and never misses the dark hot muscle of a tuna;
I’ve got lots of sensibility and no common sense;
isn’t it better to lie low while the universe bombards,
to ride out the pendulation of the seasons,
straining not so often to embrace the moon, but more
to render it embraceable; isn’t it enough
that one branch, rocking before a storm, can gather
the lines of twilight like threads in cool fresh sheets;
and isn’t it enough that all creeks flow seaward;
isn’t it enough that riverbanks come in pairs?
This is from Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems by Diane Ackerman, published by Vintage Books, 1993.