Aunt Cora's Fever

We watch, and near one hundred five degrees
her face begins to shake. Time slows and ticks.
Aunt Cora sinks into a state akin
to what she often sought: oblivion,
a hazy scrim or muddled, dull veneer
between her spirit and her constant fear.
Her life was often judged a waste. Who sees
the flame in any life (one hundred six
degrees) and what of Cora still survives--
what wordless, hungry, loving part that drives
her heart and lungs, what part that animates,
what part that yearns, or needs, or craves, or waits?
We wait. We hear, one hundred eight degrees,
and fever burns, a breath of fire enmeshed
inside the dreadful gift of bone and flesh.
Inertia fills the room; our trembling names it.
The fire meets her spirit's flame and claims it.

St. Mary's Home

This mansion was a convent. Nuns
Are scarce today; surviving ones
Revived it as an orphanage
Of sorts, for children on the edge
Of some abyss. My brother's girls
Live there. Gray Spanish moss entwirls
The live oak trees; it clings and weaves.
The ground is sand and dust and leaves.

Inside, it's old mahogany
And Persian rugs, serenity.
The antechamber where I wait
Has photographs that decorate
Each ledge: orphans who have made it,
Who went to school and graduated,
Who got good jobs and even breaks,
Had kids and didn't make mistakes.

The girls walk in, smoothed-out enough
So I will never know what rough
Spots and changes I have missed,
What price they paid to just exist,
What price they're paying now to sit
Up straight, to make their smiles fit
Their social worker's expectations
Of our family's deviations.

They won't be coming home with me.
I wished for peace—a nunnery
Of sorts, when I was just a kid,
When unexpected stuff undid
Whatever tidy space I'd made
To rearrange what toys I'd saved
From some abyss. The worker's face
Is stone. The girls and I embrace.

Too soon, then, they are whisked away.
The oak door closes with a thud.
Dark skies release their sudden rain.
The ground is rivulets and mud.
Small twigs and leaves meet reckless fates.
I know we are one flesh and blood,
And I would make my own mistakes.

To Aspirin

Distilled from modest willow bark,
Your influence defeats the dark
Diffusive ink of morning aches
And cools the heat of minor breaks,
The fractures that old age retains
In stone. Oh, spare me from such pains
As you can't dull or dim, the heart
Attacked, remorse that rips apart
Our patterned lives 'til all intents
Collapse. The drugs for such events
Outdo what they are meant to cure,
'Til there's no shame we won't endure
To have them. You're good, but we need more—
The anodyne that no one hungers for.


Michele Leavitt is a former trial attorney who now teaches in The Writing Program at the University of North Florida. Her poems and essays have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Rattapallax, The Edge City Review, Sojourner, The Humanist, Wind, Yellow Silk II: International Erotic Stories and Poems, and The Powow River Anthology.


Debra Bruce
Maryann Corbett
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Michele Leavitt
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Judith Taylor: No one seems to disagree with me when I say there's something compelling about these images. Maybe it's because we're so inundated by the media with narrative that is manipulated and inflated that these honest little private struggles to say something touch us at the core. The eye with which we see them now is not the eye of the young writer, and that distance is interesting, surprising. Maybe the connection between the adolescent girl and the adult woman, or the diary page and the studio wall, is closer than I think.
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