We, Cherubim

After Polly Morgan's Blue Fever and Black Fever

By Mattie Graff


Father, ever-expanding in

a universe of wings that flutter

with every breath, this fever

runs in both our genes. It is

too many heartbeats and

too much desire and,

maybe, too many glasses we’ve

been drowning in all this time

trying to forget


    father, where are you? i’ve

    been waiting by the river

    for three hours now


and all the other songs we’ve sung.

It is a dark fever carried by bruises

and black eyes, and mama, why

can’t you stop crying, and questions

whose answers hurt to even whisper.


Father, you kiss

like you’ve got a beak

instead of lips.


Father, you give me

diseases when you sleep

and this is a fever

I can’t sweat out

no matter how many Ale-8-1 cans

filled with Fireball I swallow.


     father, i’ve been waiting

     and you’re never here

     but to give me your fever

     of wings.


Father, I can’t be a bird

much longer.


Father, your influenza is

carrying me down

in a dizzy waltz.

It’s got hands in the curve

of my waist and its breath

smells like beer, like death

in the stables, like i know

     what you’ve done to mama.


Father, the fever is ever strong.

It’s rowing across a thick river,

taking me to a new throne. It knows

my name. It’s known me

for a long time.


     father, sing me a song

     of kentucky bourbon

     and car chases

     on a country road.