Poem 336 ± May 5, 2016

Margaret McCarthy
Fever Dream: Sick in a Foreign Country

Desire unfurls
and she finds herself in undiscovered territory.
In her dream she spots its banner in the distance;

dream-like, it beckons her and dream-like, she follows.
Slowly, it waves her to its province, a country
whose weather seems bizarre to her;

she has never felt rain this warm.
It pelts her in brief, violent storms,
soaks her and departs; then

a too-large sun
drugs her with its monumental heat.
She stumbles over the lush, languid vine growing

everywhere, a native type she can’t identify
that casually,
but surely wraps itself around all in its way;

it entwines the whole world to itself.
She reaches for the jewel-like, silken-petaled
bloom it harbors,

it shrinks and withdraws at her touch.
Confusion settles on her like humid air
and a sense of some boundary being lost.

Soon, she begins to feel strange;
she tells herself, Ignore it—
it will pass when you’re acclimated here.

But she is wrong, so wrong.
There is no adjusting to this climate,
the dense, hot-house air

that smothers with the perfume of odd flowers,
this overwhelming vista that withholds itself
while it consumes.

Then, one day, where her heart should be,
she discovers in its place
a bud,

closed, hard and jewel-like.
And then she knows: this landscape grows inside her.
She cannot remember the moment of penetration.

Once she had veins and blood, but now
there is the vine and its stranglehold;
it entwines the whole world to itself.

Infected, exhausted in this uninhabited place,
she sickens.
Her limbs begin to feel heavy,

her whole body feels as if it’s underwater.
she cannot drink

eaten up
she cannot eat.
She sleeps and sleeps,

weeps and sweats.
A fever that no water will abate
wastes her,

racks her like the peculiar, maddening storms of this place,
to leave her trembling, strung out and broken off
like a snapped branch.

In her delirium, she is directionless as mercury;
she alternately burns and freezes.
She tries to concentrate.

She draws a map of all that she remembers of this place
and puts this on the wall near her bed;
she studies it and studies—

convinced it will tell her where she is.
But she is lost, so lost.
The map becomes a face, an abstract portrait

with the features of some flawless lover—
the eyes, gems; the skin, a flower;
a picture of every wish

Obsession frames it, this work of art,
that sees the world only in its own terms.

Priceless, it, too, owns her,
the one picture she can never part with;
her own body a husk by now, her own face a shell.

She refers to it again and again,
this masterpiece.
She waits

and waits for its sphinx-like mouth to speak
she listens and listens


Margaret McCarthyMargaret McCarthy is the author of Notebooks from Mystery School (Finishing Line Press, 2015), a finalist for their New Women’s Voices Award. McCarthy’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, journals and anthologies including The Pagan Muse:Poems of Ritual and Inspiration (Citadel, 2003), Working Papers in Irish Studies, Gargoyle Magazine, Shaking Like A Mountain, Poetry New Zealand, and California State Poetry Society Quarterly, among others. Margaret works as a photographer in New York City. She publishes an electronic broadside, A Vision and a Verse, combining her imagery and poetry.

This poem appeared in Working Papers in Irish Studies.