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Feverland (Revised)

by Aaron Blair

When my mother almost dies,
it is easter.
I find a plastic egg with money in it,
but she is not there.

She has a fever as high as the sky,
and when she soars
she doesn't even see god,
only angry white birds
flying at her face.

When you're eight years old,
you might let two dollars
from inside a pink bubble
replace your mother.
When she's packed in ice,
you might be thinking
of how much candy you could buy.

They take us to the hospital,
where I watch Peter Pan in the waiting room,
wondering why the lost boy
is really a girl with short hair.
I do not recognize the hospital smell of death,
nor realize why my mother isn't pretty anymore.

2

Summertime, and suitcases packed.
She's not dying anymore.
We're going back "home".
She can't stand the city,
our gray house, where
she could look forever,
but never see a mountain.
We are her partners in flight.

My sister tells me stories
about my father's brother;
how my mother dances too close,
how she shakes her witch hips,
gives away things that our father owns.

My grandmother tells me stories
about fairies making fog up in the hills.
She doesn't ever mention
the tale of my mother and one too many of her sons.
Myths about mist are easier to explain.

3

Everything has fallen apart.
We came home because the money ran out.
Our father had developed
a fondness for cocaine and parties,
but all we noticed
was that he was too thin.
His hair was too curly.
He let the grass get too high.
He let our cat run away.

This summer will never end.
It will go on forever,
while they learn more vices,
forget how to take care of children.
I have seen more bruises on my mother
than I have seen clouds in the sky,
and I am always looking up.
My father has a girlfriend
who lives two streets over.
My mother says she looks like a horse.
I did not want to know.

4

She's saying she lost her mind.
I wonder if my father beat it out of her,
but she thinks it's the birds.
They came and took it away.
"I haven't been the same since."

She leaves and comes back with a perm,
but it doesn't seem to help her brain out.
She sits on the steps all of the time,
waiting for something to come.
I don't know what it is
but I know it never will.

She counts out pills while I sit on the bed.
I don't want my mother to die,
so I tell her that I love her.
She must believe me. She puts the pills away.

The anger starts to come out.
I see my mother for the first time,
drunk and full of fury,
looking for blood to replace her own.
Nights become knife fights,
the horsey woman's broken collarbone,
police, because she smashed the windows of my father's truck.

This is what I didn't know before,
that my parents come from dirt and are made of mud.
Even in the basement, under the switch,
I did not suspect it.

5

My childhood is up there,
in the place where fevers take you;
something like living a dream,
everything cloudy and soft to the touch.

I know that she never really came back
and she took everything good with her.
Somewhere in the feverland,
all of the best things are floating,
waiting to be reclaimed.

08/21/2002

Author's Note: This is the only truly epic poem that I have ever written. It's about one of the worst periods of my childhood, the point where my parents marriage began to fall apart, though they'd stay together for a few more years. When I wrote it, over a year ago, I was in my "no capitals, no punctuation" phase, so adding those things were my main revisions, though I changed a word or two here and there. I don't know if I could write this again. I was in a rare spot where I could channel almost exactly how I felt at the age of nine. Doesn't happen often.

Posted on 12/22/2003
Copyright © 2024 Aaron Blair

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristine Briese on 12/23/03 at 04:05 AM

Oh, Aaron. This grips the heart and pulls it through the hell you lived through. Absolutely incomparable.

Posted by Agnes Eva on 12/23/03 at 05:53 PM

Aaron, I literally got chills. In addition to how amazing it is that you channeled this childhood memory so succinctly down to the finest details rich with natural contextual metaphoric meaning, this is an amazing literary achievement of a poem. I think this poem should be read way beyond pathetic's borders...

Posted by Michele Schottelkorb on 12/28/03 at 09:38 PM

incredible relation of a time of pain and sadness... you "write this out" so effectively... i, too, am speechless... brilliant... and my thoughts are with that nine year old... blessings...

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 12/29/03 at 05:39 PM

Excellent work. Captivating, disturbing, well written.

Posted by Angela Cotterman on 12/07/04 at 04:29 PM

Excellent. The perfect mixture of dark and light to leave tingles over my skin.

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 12/07/04 at 05:29 PM

Glad I got a chance to read this poem again. Stimulating, but also sad. Reminds me of the TV show COPS. Congrats on POTD!

Posted by Michelle Angelini on 12/08/04 at 03:22 AM

Congratulations on POTD! I was a bit older when my parents marriage fell apart. The memories you detail are sad, disturbing, and must have been quite a bit for your 9 yr old brain to take. Excellent account of a not-so-excellent experience.

Posted by Tony Whitaker on 02/04/07 at 12:45 PM

I am speechless and I have a similar story so this one made me stop several times and cry. I don't do that much anymore, since I faced those demons long ago with a lot of help. May you be free of yours or find the weapon or the way to conquer them. This goes to the top of my Favorites list - Feverland indeed...

Posted by Meghan Helmich on 08/23/11 at 08:06 PM

Another wonderful write.

Posted by Tony Whitaker on 10/09/11 at 04:42 PM

It is wonderful to see this again. You definitely were in "the zone" when you wrote this. It is so important to keep in character in writing something like this and is done well by so few. This is nice and you should try another!

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