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Yesterday evening I just know
I was fighting off something:
remember? at King Soopers,
bumping into Billie from the hill,
who’d moved away —
and the small animal clinic
where we had to take the cat,
his jaw swollen, the possibility of an abscess
and the threat of lockdown looming.
The man at the counter, way too close,
sniffling and hawking,
or mid-morning at the computer store
after my laptop had crashed,
each black letter of the alphabet,
once it had been fixed
and gone god-knows-where,
a poison pill, the whole keyboard
a box-cabinet of contagion.
Take your pick.
It could have been anywhere.
I only know I was fighting off something,
throat hot, tongue dry, my head
a late summer nest of soiled feathers,
twigs, the egg sacs of incubating spiders,
the birds gone, the fluid morning
giving way to inflammation,
the curtains and the dark.
I braved the digital thermometer in the end,
one of those things you stick in your ear,
the result announced freakishly
in a child’s voice:
“Your temperature is 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit,”
she said, as though speech was still
a little strange: she lived in a world
of ones and zeroes that never met.
Still, I’m sure there was something,
though I feel better now. Thank you.
All that may be left to fear
is my uncharitable skin,
this chamber, the chrysalis of our separateness.
The place where sex and philosophy
and streetfights all begin.
You over there. Me here.
When it had flown first
he felt like an idiot
to have spent a nervous night,
doubting the wind at the park
was strong enough for kites.
But Roger said, “You wait. It’ll go.”
They’d seen the scud of clouds fill up
with rows of diamond and delta
and box kites — Indian fighting kites,
a shock of hibiscus on the pale
tweed suit of the sky.
His was no beauty:
dowel and glue and butcher paper,
but it flew on the third try
when his brother turned a little toward the bay,
the two of them running north, northeast.
Then taking the spindle back,
he eased the cord in starts,
as it tugged or pulled away,
and for almost half an hour
he watched the thing become a stamp,
a thumbprint in the gray,
and then, imperceptible, a narrow smoke,
a speck that might have been a bird
above the grounding tension of his grip.
Well before he was sure, the string went slack,
bowing and never going tight,
though the brothers squinted for ages
into the inlet air.
They found it in an oak,
a full sixty feet above the parking lot,
too high for pulling down.
“We’ll make another,” Roger said, and so they left.
And it seemed to the kite,
tethered in the tree,
that they were leaving for the first time:
the flight before, just kids
agreeing to lose themselves
for an hour or two
and then, in silent counting
reel each other in.
But the boy with the strong hands
turned and walked away
and crossed the street,
until at last, far into the bright day
he disappeared from view.
“I’ve lost control of my bodily functions,”
she said on the phone.
Go with it, I replied.
“… and I’m bleeding from every pore.”
Maybe a personal day?
It always had a calming effect.
“Why are they taking
the headlines from my belly?”
A slow news cycle — what’s above the fold?
“Child, 3, only survivor of head-on.
It comes out like ticker tape:
tic tic tic from my belly button.”
Is there another button somewhere? Cancel? Esc?
“Rabbit problem on council agenda”
“DA to investigate party chairman”
“Juvenile held in prom shooting”
“Transit project overruns likely”
We could have seen that coming, I nodded.
“I’m scared! I’m sure I’m dying.”
Anything on the obit page?
“I can’t find that. For some reason
I think they put it in the Life section.”
There you go. Nothing to worry about.
“You’re such a comfort,” she said.