Patrick Phillips


It is the year the sky reminds us
some mistakes cannot be mended.
The year, dime-eyed and listless,
a fever came to kill him.
Imperceptibly the windows
creep towards the floor,
the black bay whitening,
widening with the squall.
It is the night the lights
on the far shore hurtle backwards:
the drugstore, the hospital,
the sleeping doctors all
dissolving in the roar.
I want to ask the dark
who died and made me king:
three times I’ve filled the tub
and three times dipped him,
burning, in the water.
Not because I know what I am doing,
or because it helps,
but because the fathers and the mothers
whose job it is to save us
are all frail, or far away,
or gone forever to their graves.
It is the hour of nothingness,
and of that lamplit silence
in which sleep alone has the power
to bring my mother back,
a blue boy in her arms
as she whispers Lord
have mercy.
Lord have mercy on us.

Patrick Phillips
Fever first appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2006.