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A Lasting Sickness

From: The Missouri Review
Volume 36, Number 3, 2013
pp. 71-72 | 10.1353/mis.2013.0074

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Five nights into fever, you lie in bed
as your parents, urgent, move about you
in the soft, almost birthday-candle-dim light.
If you’re in pain, you won’t remember,
though the fever’s so high
it’s likely you’ve reached that euphoric state
in which the dying or near-dying
see the oblong silhouettes of angels,
hear the shapeless voices of the dead.
Instead, you see your mother
watching you, along with a vigil
of good soldiers: the stuffed bears,
the purple rabbit, the papier-mâché parrot
perched on a painted hanger.
Your father plunges a washcloth
again into a mixing bowl of ice water,
brings it to your head, and you fall
back asleep to the sounds of your own
being cared for. If you were the boy
who remembers this well after
forgetting the cause, if it haunts you
like, say, unrepeatable pleasure
or a good dream you’ve never learned
to disbelieve, so that each sickness—
pneumonia at eighteen, shingles
at twenty-three—reminds you
of what others have done for you
and what others will do, their hands
working your clammy wrists and brow,
kneading the minty balm again and again
into your chest, if you began to believe,
as the boy did, that the world
not only acknowledges your suffering,
but turns to soothe it—what choice
would you have but to love that world
you so appallingly don’t understand?

James Davis May  

James Davis May’s poems have appeared in Five Points, Green Mountains Review, New England Review, the New Republic, Pleiades, Tampa Review and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Inprint and the Krakow Poetry Seminar. In 2013 he won the Collins Award from Birmingham Poetry Review. The former editor of New South, he lives in Young Harris, Georgia.

Copyright © 2013 The Curators of the University of Missouri
Project MUSE® - View Citation
James Davis May. "A Lasting Sickness, and: Portrait of the Self as Skunk Cabbage, and: Someone Takes a Pine Tree Apart, and: Critique and Rebuttal, and: Smerdyakov with a Guitar." The Missouri Review 36.3 (2013): 71-79. Project MUSE. Web. 22 Jul. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
May, J. D.(2013). A Lasting Sickness, and: Portrait of the Self as Skunk Cabbage, and: Someone Takes a Pine Tree Apart, and: Critique and Rebuttal, and: Smerdyakov with a Guitar. The Missouri Review 36(3), 71-79. University of Missouri. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
James Davis May. "A Lasting Sickness, and: Portrait of the Self as Skunk Cabbage, and: Someone Takes a Pine Tree Apart, and: Critique and Rebuttal, and: Smerdyakov with a Guitar." The Missouri Review 36, no. 3 (2013): 71-79. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 22, 2014).
TY - JOUR
T1 - A Lasting Sickness, and: Portrait of the Self as Skunk Cabbage, and: Someone Takes a Pine Tree Apart, and: Critique and Rebuttal, and: Smerdyakov with a Guitar
A1 - May, James Davis
JF - The Missouri Review
VL - 36
IS - 3
SP - 71
EP - 79
PY - 2013
PB - University of Missouri
SN - 1548-9930
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/missouri_review/v036/36.3.davis-may.html
N1 - Volume 36, Number 3, 2013
ER -

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