Lower part of the middle window on the north side of the chancel of St Bartholomew’s parish church, Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. A pelican in her piety plucks her breast to feed her nestlings: a mythical symbol of Jesus Christ sacrificing himself.
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It’s June and the wild roses are in bloom.
Amid the proliferation of green
their petals glow white after yet another
rainstorm has passed.

And I am bone tired after keeping
all night vigil with my youngest
child in the emergency room.

As I bundled her burning body into
the backseat with her doll and her pink,
rose-covered blanket I cast my eyes up
to the glory of the stars, wishing
I had time to drink deep their cold midnight dazzle.

We do that, don’t we?— try to sip from the sea
of glory? As if one could. As if you
could take in anything with such a small
sip. As if it meant anything at all.
As if beauty demands nothing of you.

It’s June and the Sacred Heart of Jesus
smolders on altars all around the world.
But I wasn’t thinking of him at all

when I watched the rapid pulse in her throat,
too too fast, and imagined her racing heart
as they taped the leads all over her tiny body.

I was too distracted to pray and grateful
that others took up that task as I kept
vigil by the little burning body,
held her as she cried and vomited
and shook through the last hours of Pentecost.

I’m tired of prayerless vigils in emergency
rooms. Tired of not even wanting to pray.
My heart feels empty, worn with worrying.
Graceless, not ablaze with any Pentecostal fires, deflated.

And by the time we were free to go home
the sky had paled into dawn once more and
we were amazed that the whole night had passed
us by under the glow of hospital lights.

We drove home, slowly, stopping for ducks,
to sleep the day away. Glad that her fever had resolved.

Every time I tried to think what to write for the prompt ‘Fever,’ I kept coming back to this unfinished poem from last summer. I wrote it after spending the night with Lucy in the emergency room when she spiked a fever. It still feels a little rough around the edges, but I’m going to go with it anyway.


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