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?

Diane Ackerman

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.

Bought a friend’s old book as she is preparing to leave for Canada. Parting with books is never easy – I always have a difficult time letting go of works which probably knew me better than I know myself. But imagine passing them on to someone else, someone who is looking for her life, too, among the pages:

Diane Ackerman

               “What can be said can’t be said,
               and can’t be whistled either.”
                                            – Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein was wrong: when lovers kiss
they whistle into each other’s mouth
a truth old and sayable as the sun,
for flesh is palace, aurora borealis,
and the world is all subtraction in the end.

The world is all subtraction in the end,
yet, in a small vaulted room at the azimuth
of desire, even our awkward numbers sum.
Love’s syllogism only love can test.

But who would quarrel with its sprawling proof?
The daftest logic brings such sweet unrest.
Love speaks in tongues, its natural idiom.
Tingling, your lips drift down the xylophone
of my ribs, and I close my eyes and chime.

From Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems by Diane Ackerman, published by Vintage Books, 1993.