Sick day


Somewhere between spirit

and appetite, a boy

untangles teabag strings, lifts

floor dust with wet hands.


Redbacks observe him

from the cornices, and boys.

He’s feverish, by himself

while his mother gets groceries.


Sweat pearls the salt lamp in the den.

Alabaster men grapple

atop the piano—white-

eyed, posed and white-lipped.


He knows well not to do this.

Not to walk to the church

op shop, root for knives whose

cheap handle rivets whirl


on the tang. Whose slabs

peel. Not to pull from the bargain bin

a bag of pressed flowers, secret

petals beneath the knife handles,


seal them with superglue,

a found tube. Not to be wasps in the grass

or minigolf holes or hoses.

Not to blindfold. Not to touch, not


to tell, not to read, not to let the sun

shudder him, squeal him

like not a boy. His cinnamon sticks,

his juice bottles. His yellow


assembly place. His temperature, his

park, his yabby pond, his voice

in drowned bark missives, his bed

-eaten ankles.






Anders Villani

Anders Villani holds an MFA from the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program, where he received the Delbanco Prize for poetry. His first book, Aril Wire, was released in 2018 by Five Islands Press. He lives in Melbourne.

More by Anders Villani ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays