Marsha de la O is the author of Antidote for Night, winner of the 2015 Isabella Gardner Award, and Black Hope, winner of the New Issues Press Poetry Prize and winner of an Editor’s Choice, Small Press Book Award. Other awards include the Morton Marcus Poetry Award and the da Poetry Award. She has published extensively, including recent poems in The New Yorker and the Kenyon Review, with work forthcoming in Prairie Schooner. De la O lives in Ventura, California, with her husband, poet and editor Phil Taggart. Together, they produce poetry readings and events in Ventura County and edit the literary journal Spillway.
Author of two previous collections of poetry: BLACK HOPE (1997) and ANTIDOTE FOR NIGHT (2015). de la O is also the publisher of the journal ASKEW.
Keats at Fourteen
She dozes, her nails fretted against the linen’s border,
a hectic rose flaming each cheek. Her lips move, no words.
The boy is guardian spirit, no one but he enters this sickroom
where his mother fades, home finally after six years—failures,
disgrace. Scarlet daughter, neighbors hiss, slave to appetite,
but John is single-minded—she will live. No one but he gives her
the tincture of mercury—one tenth of a grain daily, dabs the sweat
of her fevers away, a basket of withered poppies at his feet. He pierces
each capsule with a needle, drops it in a small glazed crock to warm
near the stove, sweat out the opium. Then he’ll add wine, saffron,
nutmeg. It takes time, the hour darkens. He cups his hand
to light the votive. She moans a furred voice from webbed lungs,
a cup of black blood brimming, the pilgrim is fleeing the City,
he leans in closer, the City of Destruction, takes her clammy hand,
that place also where he was born, so close now he’s breathing her,
“Johnny,” she cries, “lift me up, Johnny, your father is here in the room.