I Have a Fever and Its Name is God

G. C. Waldrep

I have a fever and its name is God.The nurses come in shiftsand worship it.All around me the land suffersfrom the loss of love’s handkerchief.Children sing brackish rhymesin the lowest schools.There is no key, onlythe locked doorprojected onto the city wall.In my dreams I run from it.The nurses bandage my bodyin mathematical problemsI can’t solve. I tell themno, no, measure meby the sweetness of honey—Hush, they whisper.Our names, too, are writtenin the Book of the Smallest Moon.You were brought herein the traitors’ black ambulance.Your brother is a scar.The nurses place bowls of fruitaround my prone body,as sacrifices. Not to you,they explain,but to the heat you bear.Finally I stumblethrough the image of the doorin broad daylight. No one stops me.I am prescient as a lilac.But the nurses sayWe will never leave you.They have prepared a feast,they have sewn my wedding garment.There are so many of them,far too many to count.Each of them lifts a piece of meto her mouth—By the sweetness of honey.Let me and my works be undone.

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G.C. Waldrep is the author of six previous full-length collections of poetry, most recently feast gently (Tupelo 2018), which won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the long poem Testament (BOA Editions, 2015). Waldrep’s work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Paris Review, APR, New England Review, New American Writing, Harper’s, Tin House, Verse, and many other journals in the USA and abroad, as well as twice in The Best American Poetry and in the second edition of Norton’s Postmodern American Poetry. He has received prizes from the Poetry Society of America and the Academy of American Poets as well as the Colorado Prize, the Dorset Prize, the Campbell Corner Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative American Writing, and a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, Pa., where he teaches at Bucknell University and edits the journal West Branch.

"The Earliest Witnesses suggests the dividing line between the mortal and the eternal is not death, but the body, and an insoluble problem troubles this nexus insofar as the body is occupied by thinking—it recognizes the difficulty of simultaneously standing both in and beside the world, but, remarkably, it recognizes also that fully inhabiting this difficulty is the beginning of peace..."
—Shane McCrae

"The Earliest Witnesses puts in stark relief the way his lightning mind, caught between God and the body, finds in poetry the battery to hold and express the voltage. As always, his linguistic palette and image-making are electric. What is new? The poems here are more naked and more fierce; in them I feel the charge of crisis: of faith and of earth, psyche and flesh."
—Dana Levin

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