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98

Fever of Unknown Origin
(missing author)

0
terms
1
notes

by Campbell McGrath

? (2021). Fever of Unknown Origin. The Paris Review, 236, pp. 98-107

105

Allow me to apologize for my self-absorption. My virus
is your virus, ours is a virulent commonwealth.
We breed them together, refine them, borrow them
from friends and strangers, camels and bats,
as my body fights its infection the global corpus
combats our latest invader—retrovirus, ebolavirus, coronavirus—
we are besieged, we sicken, we counterattack, we die.
But illness leads you inward, away from the tribe,
the clan, the calculus of multitudes
vs. singletons that constitutes American thought.
Interiority is a mode of social distancing.
Here, in the hospital, I am me, alone, a being
frightened of its own mechanical failings,
like a bystander trapped in a broken elevator.
I feel, to myself, like a construct, a built thing, a city
in which I encounter my own bacterial hordes as strangers
passing silently through a maze of narrow alleys.
I watch my heart pulsing and I do not think,
That is me, there beats my engine,
I think, Ah, skillful machine, as if it were an iPhone.
I feel the body’s otherness all around me.
I compose the urgent letter in its envelope,
I carry the scepter in its keep.
It is a prison and a vehicle of emancipation, a strong horse.
My legs trot and canter, my hair grows unlicensed,
my lungs expand and contract automatically.
I am me, alone, but how do I happen
to be here? What am I
if not my body?
Who am I if not that it?
The doctors tell me the many ways I might die
but not how I come to be alive,
existence is a fever of unknown origin,
a pandemonium of desires—
I want to live, I want to breathe, I want
to see as vividly as Vermeer and as broadly as a common fly
and as encyclopedically as the mantis shrimp
though I cannot understand why
it would need to differentiate ten million colors
or how anyone could measure its ability to do so—
the Ishihara test?—simple questionnaires?
I want my heart to shake its defiant fist at the sky forever.
I want my soul to swell with sorrow as with joy.
Most of all, with a desperation that embarrasses me,
as if I had been jailed a decade, I want to go home.

<3

—p.105 missing author 2 years, 1 month ago

Allow me to apologize for my self-absorption. My virus
is your virus, ours is a virulent commonwealth.
We breed them together, refine them, borrow them
from friends and strangers, camels and bats,
as my body fights its infection the global corpus
combats our latest invader—retrovirus, ebolavirus, coronavirus—
we are besieged, we sicken, we counterattack, we die.
But illness leads you inward, away from the tribe,
the clan, the calculus of multitudes
vs. singletons that constitutes American thought.
Interiority is a mode of social distancing.
Here, in the hospital, I am me, alone, a being
frightened of its own mechanical failings,
like a bystander trapped in a broken elevator.
I feel, to myself, like a construct, a built thing, a city
in which I encounter my own bacterial hordes as strangers
passing silently through a maze of narrow alleys.
I watch my heart pulsing and I do not think,
That is me, there beats my engine,
I think, Ah, skillful machine, as if it were an iPhone.
I feel the body’s otherness all around me.
I compose the urgent letter in its envelope,
I carry the scepter in its keep.
It is a prison and a vehicle of emancipation, a strong horse.
My legs trot and canter, my hair grows unlicensed,
my lungs expand and contract automatically.
I am me, alone, but how do I happen
to be here? What am I
if not my body?
Who am I if not that it?
The doctors tell me the many ways I might die
but not how I come to be alive,
existence is a fever of unknown origin,
a pandemonium of desires—
I want to live, I want to breathe, I want
to see as vividly as Vermeer and as broadly as a common fly
and as encyclopedically as the mantis shrimp
though I cannot understand why
it would need to differentiate ten million colors
or how anyone could measure its ability to do so—
the Ishihara test?—simple questionnaires?
I want my heart to shake its defiant fist at the sky forever.
I want my soul to swell with sorrow as with joy.
Most of all, with a desperation that embarrasses me,
as if I had been jailed a decade, I want to go home.

<3

—p.105 missing author 2 years, 1 month ago