Fever Ward

by Peter Huggins

You lay in a white hospital bed.
Curved in stiff white sheets, your conch,
          You drifted in and out
          Of sleep, dreaming.

The walls released the voices of those
Who’d suffered and died in this ward
          From influenza, tb,
          Diptheria, yellow fever.

No one moan was distinct:
A banshee wail sounded
          Like a mosquito
          Before drawing blood.

When the walls broke into a sweat,
Drops the size of Minié balls
          Flooded the wood floors
          And floated your bed.

Flushed out of the hospital you
Wound up in the river and then on a Gulf
          Island with no
          Drinking water.

You were so thirsty that you drank sand.
Your skin hurt: it turned red and black,
          Peeled like fine gauze,
          Drifted against the wind.

You shook the headboard of your hospital bed.
A nurse wrapped you in clean white sheets.
          You’d beat this thing
          If it killed you.

PETER HUGGINS teaches in the English Department at Auburn University.  He is the author of two collections of poems, Hard Facts (Livingston Press/University of West Alabama, 1998) and Blue Angels (River City Publishing, 2001).  His novel for middle readers, In the Company of Owls, is forthcoming from NewSouth Books.