Every morning, I take my temperature
with a digital thermometer I stick in my ear:
there’s a nasty bug going around,
and I try to stay ahead of these things.
My left ear is warmer.
I favor my cool right ear, a full nine degrees
below what they tell us is normal.
Somewhere between these two extremes,
the outer limits of left and right,
I imagine a sun
like a bright yolk in the vacuum
of my galaxial head,
space and not gray matter,
and a succession of planets.
You live on the most beautiful blue pearl
in a broad, righteous orbit.
You send out signals into the void,
telling us of magical trees,
your love of animals, falling water.
Some of your messages reach the right ear,
the cold one, where a few drifting bodies
collect in the ice belt,
like homeless men around a grate.
They’ve just heard
that they are no longer considered planets,
perhaps no longer even a part
of this distant sun’s system.
I hear their voices when I untie myself
into sleep, on my right side.
They listen to news of your impossible oaks,
cascades that make men weep,
the mothering whisper of the wild,
a lullaby they might hear just this once,
this winter-shortened night.
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.