Inspired by Fever 103 by Sylvia Plath
Pure evil. What does it mean?
I itch like hell.
My mind is as dull as the triple
Bladed razor, old and rusty now,
Languishing on the shelf, incapable
Of cleaving clean
The writhing rash, the skin, the skin.
My cindered thighs.
The calomined smell.
Too hot to handle!
Love, love, the heat waves roll
From me like St. Helens’ ash. I might
Begin St. Vitus’ dance, the throbbing reel,
The flagellate strokes
Lash my flesh. I cannot rise,
But unbundle all my clothes,
Cursing Satan’s wrath.
Ice water welcoming my bulk,
Accepts this ravished hulk,
Steam evaporating into air.
Radiation, burning bright,
Could kill me in an hour.
Torching the bodies of heretics
Like Torquemada with kerosene.
The skin. The skin.
Darling, all night
I have been swaddling in hydrocortisone.
My sheets grow heavy as Old Nick’s kiss.
Three days. Three nights.
Water-basted, roasting chicken.
Water, water makes me kvetch.
I am too sore for anything involving touch.
Hurts in ways known only to God. I am radium –
My head a flame
On Japanese paper, incendiary skin.
I am infinitely apprehensive.
Does not my heat astound you! And my light!
All by myself I am a branding iron
Glowing and glowing, flush on flesh.
I think I may ascend,
Expand to twice my size –
Sparks flying from my cattle prods, I
Am pure evil,
Child of God,
Attended by prednisone angels,
By Hannibal Lecter, by Nurse Ratched,
By whatever these red things mean!
Not You, nor her
Nor her, nor her
(dissolving crystals, old swathes)
(First published in Enchantments - 2018)