POETRY – 4 Poems by Donald Illich

Seeing the Average

The leaves aren’t so vivid, more mud-colored
than red and orange. The old buildings
are a lusty black and gray, government hovels
for the bureaucrats to run their wheels in.

Rain sometimes adds interest, forming
puddles in sidewalk depressions, streaking
car windows, shocking clouds into movement.
A snowstorm might insert white everywhere,

but shoe prints dirty the beauty. Employees,
in suits and dresses, hold doors for each other,
welcome them to ugly walls being repaired,
a maze for the workers to find their way into.

In windows they see their wished for escapes.
To the motorcycles, to the vans, where they can
introduce themselves back into the world,
where light and space chime with their hearts.

Witnesses

The difficulty is we were able to see.
To point our eyeballs at the problem,
feel its colors massing on our vision.

If we hadn’t been able to watch it,
we would’ve slept at night, crawling
into covers like a banana peel, waiting

for the big mouth of unconsciousness
to envelop us. Being witnesses hurt
our bodies, left bruises on our faces.

We weren’t the types that wanted to know
what evil was, what bushes it hid in,
what tombs darkness could erupt from.

Instead, we’d rather stare into the sun,
let blindness see everything as beauty,
one solid ray of gold that stunned us.

We’d stumble from street to building,
from floor to bedroom, believing all
was as it had been, when the talons

clutch on to our legs, bats fly over
our heads, fluttering hair, leading us
into caves we can’t come back from.

Break Into the Body, Tell It What to Do

Force the limbs to fall under the Christmas
wreath. To touch the nose, wondering
when it will turn red. Make it flee
from fireworks in the yard, then touch

the charred remains. Force it to run
through waves bashing against a beach,
so the body can remember what it was like
to excuse yourself from the sea. When Spring

arrives, let the limbs renew like bushes
and leaves, the sprouting of green from ice.
The cherry blossoms will return soon,
and this time the hands won’t break them,

leaving them for others to enjoy. In summer
the heat will overcome flesh and blood.
They’ll lie on the towel, sweating,
sand encrusting the legs. Eventually,

there will be no season and no love.
The corpse will become a time machine
that sets itself on fire, that quietly stops
as smoke rises from its face and arms.

Fearsome

I used to be fearsome.
My sharp teeth snagged
meetings with throats,
my claws promised
to rip lovers’ organs.

Now, I sleep distantly into the future, where time holds
me in innocence, helpless jaws, pale and pink fingers.
Where I slip on the ice and sprain my left ankle,
where I drench a marital spat with tears down my lips.

Once I could leap
so high no animal
could follow me
into open windows
of beautiful lovelies.

I discuss luck and chance with the powers that be.
That when my bloodthirsty nature was taken away,
I was given the ability to run, the feeling of fright
I felt through my bones, shaking in their muscles.

You should’ve seen me
slither like a snake, growl
like a wolf. I was wild, then,
without a hope for heaven,
without a care for my life.

Donald Illich has published in The Iowa Review, LIT, Nimrod, and other journals.  He lives in Rockville, Md.

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