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Somehow now I’ve cheapened delirium.

These days I float with a fever above

my bed, staring down at my husk in glum

humor. Dear foul body, I want to love

you, but damn! Even cirrhosis never

caused me this much grief and it was killing

me. Float and fret. Float and sweat in a blur

of noise that I can’t construe while passing

skyward. Once I thought consumption cool:

burbling blood just like Paganini.

Black-flecked spittle was so gothic. But now?

Niccolò, when I said, “Give me an old-school

death,” it wasn’t this; rather skag, filthy

deeds and all that deliria might allow.



Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) was a violin virtuoso so astonishingly talented that it was rumored that he had sold his soul to the Devil for his crazy skills. Like Dunbar, Chopin, Kafka, Keats and Robert Louis Stevenson, Paganini also died from TB (tuberculosis). Skag is an old nickname for heroin. On a personal note, I mention cirrhosis (a disease of the liver from chronic alcoholism) because I am a life-long alcoholic who would be dead right now if it weren’t for AA (this February 18 will mark four whole years of sobriety for me). While my doctor insists it was not Covid and just borin’ ol’ pneumonia, last year I was bed-ridden for months due to a painful, horrible cough that wouldn’t go away. With the coming of winter I can feel, once again, something in my lungs.