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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Susie Utting


James coughs all day
like a seal
like most of the kids at Kinder his teacher says
it's normal as soon as the nights grow cold here Eucalyptus in boiling water towel over his head & let him breathe the steam my neighbour Lorraine says
she leaves her little David in a hot bath makes the whole room mist up sometimes this helps
So we try both ways but it doesn't stop & eventually he falls asleep
chest heaving rasping through small blue lips like a little door swinging in a wind
When the fever reaches 104 I ring Lorraine
We know the way
fog tonight just like in our bathroom
James' bedroom all steam
crazy clouds of thoughts
Here before when James split his head six stitches fell off his red truck Dad made for his birthday
We wait on the long wooden bench
shiplap sides glass doors to the children's ward
Dr. Harrison the same as last time smiles hello
James tries but it doesn't come
Such a high white bed
Blue Blanket under his chin
& the nurse gently burbling don't mind the mask
she'll fix the strap not too tight & his throat will fill with soft warm fog
So early this year
her ward half full tonight
her pod flock fold bob rookery of pups & whelps
swimming in blameless seas
James breathes deep
no more heaving

the terror
fully inhaled
folds its wings