Mary Mackey

In Those Days Rivers Could Not Cool Me

I once lived in places
where volcanoes erupted   the water was poison
and the night swarmed with termites
that tasted like glue

there were rooms where I lay so wrapped
in fever that the fans overhead seemed ecstatic
in their whirling   
rooms where I saw light the color of blood and bruised
plums   had hallucinations   dreams   terrors so great
they set me shrieking

once for 4 hours straight I spoke in rhymed couplets
and no one could make me shut up
until I threw off the sheets and ran into the tropical night
like a woman on fire

in those days   rivers could not cool me
threats could not subdue me   I burned
and burned with illness   lust   and fear
and your lightest touch seemed like a blow

later   I cooked a monkey in cream sauce
and we ate it as jungle rats ran the rafters
over our heads   the next afternoon I nearly
stepped on a nine foot fer-de-lance

only a mad woman could have loved such a life
but I did   I do   loved the strangeness of it
the non-humanness of it   the sure knowledge that death
was so small and close it could buzz in my ear