I awoke the moment the fever hit,
turned my head:
five twenty-five.
It was still mostly dark out,
the bottom of the clouds
catching a red glow
as if there was a fire somewhere
in the valley
instead of millions of miles away.

The fever sat on my chest
like a wiry old man
heavier than he looks,
his rotting iron-colored teeth
a portcullis through which the hot gasps
of his sweaty breath ran.

I fell asleep again
and when I awoke for the second time
the old man was gone
but I could still taste decay
in the back of my mouth,
the sickness
an oyster
so slippery
I couldn’t help but swallow.