This week we offer a new poem by James Davis May from our hot-off-the-press fall issue, 36.3. May’s poems have appeared in Five Points, Green Mountains Review, New England Review, New Ohio Review, The New Republic, Pleiades, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Inprint and the Krakow Poetry Seminar. In 2013, he won the Collins Award from Birmingham Poetry Review. The former editor of New South, he lives in Young Harris, Georgia.
I wrote “A Lasting Sickness” last April after recovering from a vicious fever and an equally vicious series of setbacks: losing my job and having to move with my family away from a house, neighborhood, and city where we were quite happy. While half-sleeping, half hallucinating in bed, I thought a lot about the childhood memory I describe in the poem. The fever in the poem was brought on by pneumonia – I was no older than seven, I think – and my parents’ hushed concern and care has taken on a mythic importance for me because I’m almost certain it prompted my first conscious thoughts about love. Not that I hadn’t felt loved before that – it was just that I hadn’t thought about thinking about it until then (or until I first remembered the memory). Anyway, the poem treats what I’ll call my Romantic tendencies (Wordsworth was my first literary love) as a sort of chronic illness. The poem’s not a cure, of course, more of a diagnosis without instructions.
A LASTING SICKNESS