April 12, 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2011

National Poetry Month Issue 6/7

Spring fever is more than just the restless excitement we feel with the coming of warm weather. We've had wild temperature swings, thunderstorms, and late snow here in the Baltimore area.

Stinkbugs aren't the only bugs around. Strep throat and stomach flu are making the rounds. My 11-year-old daughter had strep last week. Her fever topped 103.3.

Here is Maryland poet Adele Steiner Brown's poem, "Fever Healing."

It's told from the point of view of a sick child. The precision of Adele's descriptions, especially in the last four stanzas when a parent comforts the speaker, ring true for me. When a child is sick, everything slows down as we wait for the fever to break.

 Fever Healing
 by Adele Steiner Brown

You offer to say a prayer for me,
but I don’t know what prayer is.

I hear no words, only sounds your voice makes.
It quivers and shakes as if afraid
of its own rising, and I know that you
are frightened by heights:  The farther

you distance yourself from the earth, 
the more aware you become of its turning,

of time passing and your inability
to slow either of them down.

Heights place you face to face with your
other fear too—falling toward the ground
at speeds high enough to skin your elbows
knuckles, or knees because flesh in those

places grows so thin over bone that
it tears whether you shake your fist or
flail the full length of your limbs against
the wind.  So, you tend to your old wounds

instead:  Your hands rub the bruises hard
enough to let you know that each new pain

they bring cancels out the old and that
pain-on-pain makes a balm.  I can feel it

in your fingers the moment they reach out
and begin to stroke the side of my face.

From the tip of my brow, past one eye,
and along the jawbone to the center

of my chin, your fingers follow the same
path over and over again until

they wear it deep and wide enough for me
to rest my head in, close my eyes, and sleep. 

Posted with permission of the author.
Since I didn't post yesterday, I have a bonus for you and your high school students today. (Advanced-learners in middle school will like this, too.)

Writing Prompt:
Write a poem -- not about being sick, but within illness. What does it feel like when you have a fever? How does the mind work? Being sick can make your skin and hearing hyper-sensitive. Do you remember touching something while you were ill and being surprised that it felt different?

Bonus! Lesson Extension:
There are two Ray Bradbury stories that take two very different views of a feverish tween. The two stories would make a great compare/contrast lesson or essay.

In "Dandelion Wine," Doug's fever is brought on by a summer with too many changes and he can't be cured by traditional medicines or doctors. (This one has a literary tone.)

For your speculative fiction buffs, "Fever Dream," 13-year-old Charles is convinced his fever is taking over his body.

Use Adele's poem to introduce the short stories and you'll prompt a pre-learning discussion that will prepare students for a deep understanding of Bradbury's characters.

 Adele Steiner Brown is a fellow Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Education for poetry. If you'd like to read more of her work, check out her books, The Moon Lighting and Look Ma, Hands on Poetry.

I hope you are having a fabulous National Poetry Month. Life in Me Like Grass on Fire has sold out of its first printing (in 2 days!) For me -- best NPM ever.

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