Sleeping in fever, I am unfair
to know just who you are:
hung up like a pig on exhibit,
the delicate wrists,
the beard drooling blood and vinegar;
hooked to your own weight,
jolting toward death under your nameplate.
Everyone in this crowd needs a bath.
I am dressed in rags.
The mother wears blue.
You grind your teeth
and with each new breath
your jaws gape and your diaper sags.
I am not to blame
for all this. I do not know your name.
Skinny man, you are somebody’s fault.
You ride on dark poles —
a wooden bird that a trader built
for some fool who felt
that he could make the flight. Now you roll
in your sleep, seasick
on your own breathing, poor old convict.
The disturbing feverish images (“like a pig on exhibit”, “drooling blood and vinegar”,”jaw gapes” and “your diaper sags”), almost blasphemous, a mixture of pity, ignorance, concern and delusion create a nightmare image of Christ crucified in the feverish dream of an unbeliever or maybe just a poor untaught observer. Even as a dream, it seems to drift off into an Icarus legend in the final stanza, connecting suggestive images. The persona of the poem doesn’t seem to recognize or admit their culpability in this tragic sight (“I do not know your name” and “you are somebody’s fault”) and responds with pity (“poor old convict”) though not with understanding.
It would be interesting to know under what circumstances this poem was written. Is the fever real or is life the feverish dream the poet suggests?
I think that poem was writen from the bottom of your heart. I really enjoyed it! It really touched me. you are a great poet!