Joy Katz

December, Fever

A tang approaches, like the smell of snow.
Illness like a color deepens—
pale gray, thick-in-a-cloak gray, secret coat silk,
and finally the weight of rough pelts heaped on the bed.
The last enchantment of the day is tearing pages out of a book.
The paper soft and thin, like falling asleep
(a hand backstage at school smoothing my hair:
a boy named Lakamp, who became an undertaker)
My baby laughs to rip the pages.
Stays by me, does this damage.
The tearing moves like voltage through my own hands.
Oh mother skimming fever
I need him to linger
are you still happening there, in your body?
I just want to lie at the edge of breaking.
Yes, I am still backstage, here in my body.
The baby pulls out another page—
leaving him would come this easily.
I will bind myself to the thinnest sounds,
the feather coming out of the pillow.
Please keep ripping up the words.
Please don’t need anything from me.

Joy Katz
“December, Fever” first appeared in Ploughshares, Winter 2010.