2006 Prize Winner

by Allan Peterson

Fever is the dream of death in daylight
that hits one ear and then the next,”
then is exiled to the skies, reminder of the hell to come.

And if one be in labor
all the house locks must be opened, windows opened,
doors ajar, no knots in clothing.
Now heart is playing the bone harp’s monotonous rhythms;
no one is asking to dance.
What with the house shingled like feathers, like scales,
we should have known,
the sky coughing black clouds and crow virus.

When I visited Pompeii, they had not yet found the bodies.
Water was marked potabile
though strained centuries through their ribs and ash.
I have that feeling around me,
dread right in the closet with a snakeskin suit, pupae
waiting in the earth to split open,
dig out, fly and suck flowers into dry wads.
Fever rises, blood in glass veins,
crumpled as if to be thrown away. Then the nurse of aspirin
in her white dress, willow,
cools the fluids, calms the death mask, plaster, into sleep.