Sick with the kind of fever that makes you grateful
for everything, I asked for the Moonlight Sonata
and he put it on and I lay on the couch and drank
orange pineapple mango juice, which was the best
juice ever, even though it was just Dole and not
organic and from a plastic-lined cardboard carton
probably leaking pthalates. I couldn’t taste them.
I lay there with tears dripping into my ears saying
it’s so beautiful while he made coffee and toast
with honey. It’s easy to fall in love with heat
when you have a fever and believe you’re freezing.
The same with hypothermia, when you’re so cold
you start to burn, and strew your clothes over the snow
as though death is a bedroom you’re swept into
by a passion so strong you don’t care what thread
and buttons you scatter behind. Why is even
temperature so unreliable? And why was that bird
in his yard a lesser goldfinch, when it was perfectly
yellow and lovely? And why are the Antilles
lesser? Aren’t they really less than lesser,
since Antillia doesn’t exist and never did—
like the Fortunate Islands, the Isles of the Blest?
Antillia means island of the other or opposite island
or the inaccessible, meaning, of course, you, or
hell is other people, or, as it was meant, hell is
the otherness of people, meaning not the individual
you—don’t worry, I’m not writing about you—
you don’t exist except as a phantom island, sorry.
If I were a bird, I might be the lesser Henrietta,
but at least not the least. Though if you judged
my worth based on how little you had to work
to have me, you might understandably call me so.
To be just given something of value—like the car
my ex-husband’s parents gave him after he drove
his off a cliff. The idea that someone might give me
a car I didn’t have to work for all year in a greasy
fried chicken place—if I had known, all along,
that it was so easy. I felt duped. It’s different
kinds of work—to obtain, to sustain, to validate,
like parking. To keep my bad opinions to myself.
It was knapweed honey, that morning, from a noxious
weed whose roots displace the native nectar-producing
blooms, diminishing the realm of the bees,
while the bees make the sweetest, clearest honey.
Henrietta Goodman is the author of three books of poetry: All That Held Us (BkMk Press, 2018), Hungry Moon (University Press of Colorado, 2013), and Take What You Want (Alice James Books, 2007). Her poems have recently appeared in Terrain, The Fourth River, New Ohio Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Western Humanities Review, and other journals.