The Fever Dreamer

as Baden Powell, 1918

~Jacob McArthur Mooney

I have made the boys.
Baden boys, Britannia boys, I have made them cruel and handsome,
made them march in single file, backs straight, sleeping on their knees
like new carnivores.

I have taught the boys
to take the waste from their lives, to cure their clean-pressed trousers
of mange and leg and mittens. I’ve had my boys go post-European
and sew their pockets shut.

I have beaten boys.
I have whipped their face with eyebrows. I have singed their shirts with steam
and broken out the laxatives. I have proctored international, made
and been remade by boy.

I have told the boys
I Want Them. I want them for king and Kaiser. Want them Lusitania
and Sino-Tsarist tensions. Want them cradle of statecraft
and Metternich and mob,

want armament contracts
for agreed-upon fathers, mothers who would pack-mule pamphlets
into bedrooms, the boyish Yes! of Oxford Press, printing (in three
weeks) Why We Are At War.

I have become my boys’
sincerity, their sweated-out details. I have boxed the boys,
bent them at their waists and wound their backs for marching.
If you scratch my surface,

I’ll be the boys’ defence.
I’ll settle their wounds with the Good News of Field Dress. I will
wear them hats. I will tie them heads to handkerchiefs. You’ll taste how
I have egged them on.

I have fed the boys
provisions. In those first provocations of union hall and field,
I’ve shown them the fruitful economy of hunters, bought them
the blades for first shaves.

In their sucralose blood
of comeuppance, I have calmed them. I’ve shown them to suckle on
the nearest teat to tongue. I have left them to tend to these friendships
in dark habitats.

The boys, as boys, descend
on repertoires of bravery. I know I bring this up again,
but just look at what they’re wearing. Observe the benevolent
cotton at their necklines,

their badges and banners
torqued into hieroglyph: Boy at swim. Boy at camp. Boy against
the outline of the nation that protects him. Boy using arrow.
Boy painted on a map.

I apologize
to Europe for the invention of the boy. I did not design them
to be tyrants or marauders. I didn’t dream them up to die.
I demanded of boys

that they drift in mythic
packs, wicked on the scent of antagonist or sibling. I regret
that climactic lifting of the fence, the appeal to factor out
the fattened hearts of kings.

I have brokered boys,
bankrolled their littleness and lust. I’ve erected border towns
both between and inside them, built hives in their minds,
freeing them of history.

Cornered in this keyhole
horrorshow in Brittany, I’ve engendered all the boys, as breath
and as bereavement. Call me piper, bogeyman, but it is true
I made the boys.
I have made the boys bewildering.

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