Kaiser Haq
New Year Brainwave
(After rereading The Tempest)

   (for Ranjitda)

‘You give me fever’—
    Madonna on the iPod
         Pouring her heart out.

Nursing a common cold,
    I dwell on the
         Phenomenology of real fevers,

The mellow pleasures of
    The low-grade sort—
         Dry skin, mildly aching joints,

Mind disengaged from action—
    You could fancy yourself a Buddhist monk
         Or yogi in placid samadhi;

The irony of ‘moderate’ fever—
    You move from chill
         And tachycardia to stupor;

And high-grade fever that guarantees
    The high of delirium,
         After which comes hyperpyrexia—

And farewell life!
    Sipping hot tea in bed,
         I ride a New Year brainwave:

What if the peddlers of progress
    Could equip wielders of power
         With an efficient

Fever-inducing device?
    For writers, artists, intellectuals,
         Meditation-conducive ‘low-grade’,

No more than 39° C or 102.2° F,
    Should work wonders,
         And recalcitrant political activists

Could be taught instant moderation
    With moderate fever,
         39-40° C or 102.2-104° F.

Jails could be dismantled
    And criminals sentenced at home
         To a term of ‘high-grade,’

39-42° C or 104-107.6° F.
    For capital crimes it’s higher still.
         The Global Mega-Power

With its Mega-Fever machines
    Could deal similarly with the whole world:
         Revive Oriental spiritual traditions

With a ‘low-grade’ pandemic, tame
    Rogue states with a mega-dose of ‘moderate,’
         Give terrorists a sharp taste of hyperpyrexia.

A perfect solution
    To mankind’s ills,
         Don’t you think? Utopia!

What are you saying?
    Product of a febrile imagination?
         So is every bleeding utopia, my friend.