Featured in Colorado Review
On the Worst Day of the FeverFeatured, Poetry
Published Spring 2014
It occurred to me that I had swallowed
some shards of mirror without realizing it.
There was an ice fog that descended
and left me shaking. I began to realize that
I’d never actually held an entire conversation.
It was impossible. I had misremembered.
Bed held no solace. The night stretched
for acres and acres, but each hour was
its own thorny wood. I saw every number
on the clock. I sweated through one shirt, then
another. The bedroom asked Why are you here?
I thought you loved me, I said. I loved the other girl,
it replied. I turned on the TV at 3 a.m.,
watched a special on Hamlet. Yorick’s skull
was human, bequeathed by a dead composer.
It made it so much more real, one actor said.
My throat shrieked like a teakettle. Then
gray morning came. The bed didn’t want me
but neither did the day. I wanted
to drink water without swallowing needles.
I wanted to stand without swaying.
The dried apricots glowed from the pantry.
Everything I’d never have again. Everything
that would sting forever. The sharp white
cheddar, the grapefruit juice. Galaxies beyond
my reach, the world was lit and spinning
like a carnival ride. Cars sped to Mexico.
Fireworks arced and shimmered.
Millions of people went surfing, dodged
bullets, sang arias, slept together. I watched it
through my kitchen window as my tea
rattled on the stove. Impossible that I’d been
part of it once. A squirrel plummeted
from a tree, shook its head, raced back up.
And I saw, suddenly, that the whole damn thing
was too beautiful for any of us, after all,
that it couldn’t possibly exist, and you’d think
I’d find peace in knowing I wasn’t missing
anything real, but I only wanted it more.
In my fever I flung open the door.
In my fever I stood in the yard and reached,
tried to gather up into my burning hands
the whole absurd illusion, the light and motes,
the fake bird cries, the lab-made pine air,
tried to hold tight against me everything
that had never been there at all.
Catherine Pierce is the author of The Girls of Peculiar (Saturnalia, 2012) and Famous Last Words (2008). Her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry, Slate, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Field, and elsewhere. She lives in Starkville, Mississippi, where she co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.