Malaria Poems: That’s cerebral

Background photo ©James Gathany/CDC, Designed by Leigh Cavanaugh
By Cameron Conaway

“Roughly one in ten children will suffer from neurological impairment after cerebral malaria, be it epilepsy, learning disability, changes in behaviour, loss of coordination or impairments to speech. As well as being discomforting physically, these problems can also lead to stigmatisation in the community and can reduce individuals’ capacity for work, imposing an additional economic burden.”4

That’s Cerebral

the doctor said        and it dispersed

slick through thick air 



             shuttling sound       away

from mouth          mutating it to mean.

A compliment     in another place

            here sticks

            here clots

            here a death sentence    this time

           to a tribe full of other times.

There               a strong man

  whose great ideas

cannot be said 

                   a lone umbrella acacia alone.      Here

a girl of ten    confused    why her arms won’t raise

when she’s asked to raise them

      and her baby brothers.

                                      A tribe muscled

with dwindling

where cured malaria leaves

trails like listening.

About the Author

Cameron Conaway is the Social Justice Editor at The Good Men Project. He was the 2011-2012 Poet-in-Residence at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand and the 2007-2009 Poet-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing Program. His work has appeared or been reviewed in ESPN, The Huffington Post, Rattle, Teach Magazine, Möbius The Australian, Cosmopolitan and the Ottawa Arts Review, among others. His first book of poems, “Until You Make the Shore,” was released in Winter 2013 from Salmon Poetry. For more information visit

4. Neurological damage from malaria. Ian Jones. 06/12/2002.