the fever

Posted: 10/31/2011 in house of change

in the fever ward

the nurses’ eyes are hard as

coffin boards

they say, sugar pea, whatchoo fussin for

in the fever ward

when you dyin.

when the fever come

drop you quick as when

you daddy hung

he look up, say my sweet darlin, you my favorite one

when the fever come

and folks are dyin.

when the fever break

devil feed on grief and

johnny cake

he say, baby girl, I come for you another day

when the fever break

and day is dyin.

  1. This is eerie…tragic…good write

  2. hedgewitch says:

    Whew–this is a slice of the graveyard past for sure. Coal knows the way to get up the grue…this voice is one of her creepier efforts–I love it, naturally. And that old song was very popular when i was a child–Louis Armstrong, i believe–morbid and grim with its roots in folk and blues. A Happy Headless Pumpkin dance around the mortuary slab to all.

  3. Mama Zen says:

    Damn, Coal is hot tonight!

  4. I felt the ice run through my veins as I read this piece – all the more morbid for its realism.

  5. Made me think of The Black Plague and Scarlet Fever, when death became everyday.

  6. brian miller says:

    goodness…shivers…some viceral imagery…the daddy looking up after hanging….and the johny cake….think i might just let the fever take me….

  7. claudia says:

    somehow this took me back to a book i read – 13th century when the black death was killing people like flies and the few nurses left to care fro them probably had eyes hard as coffin boards…

  8. Brendan says:

    Death was so much more our neighbor and kin in years past … and on the other side of the tracks (where the Coal’s unloaded all night), the edge remains thin. Sang it well, friend. – Brendan

  9. The coffin board eyes and “drop you quick as when you daddy hung” are phenomenal. I love St. James Infirmary, must have six versions of it, your poem fits into Joe Cocker’s silences.

  10. Coal, as always, gritty and true. I would love to suggest you give a listen to Lou Rawls’ version of St. James Infirmary, because live, hearing the audience, well… I wore his live album out. Also has “Tobacco Road” and my favorite, “Muddy Water.” Peace, Amy
    My dverse piece:
    Lou Rawls on YouTube (audio only)

  11. Dark, in the season of darkness and the era of “Contagion.” The poor still die in such places and a greater rate than those with insurance and positions of power in society. You ain’t liyin’ ’bout all de diein.’ But pine boxes aren’t as hard as the coal that used to clatter into the basements in the tenaments where I first saw the light…

  12. kamana says:

    eyes hard as coffin boards… got stuck with that. enjoyed this read.

  13. Pervagus says:

    Stark and bleak yet something warm and charming in the use of the flippant word “dyin.” abbreviation. Does send chills down the spine. Great write.

  14. Gay says:

    Black and blues. Speaks right to my bones! Well done.

  15. dani says:

    “the nurses’ eyes are hard as

    coffin boards”

    {shivers} one of the best concerts i ever went to was Joe Cocker. LOVE this. {are we on the same wave-length, or what? though your song is FAR, FAR better than mine!} ♥

  16. Zouxzoux says:

    What a mood you set with this.
    SJI is one of the best songs ever written. Being a New Orleans girl, I’m partial to local musicians and this is one of my favorite versions by Kermit Ruffins:

    Did you know there’s a blog dedicated to SJI? It’s great, check it out here:

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