Try the Clouds; One Star; Telling the Myth; A Tenth of My Normal Size, I Fly on a Bird; I Believe in the TV Family

Try the Clouds

I levitate off the ground,

but my eyes are on you.

How you remain a stone,

how you can’t be lifted.

That’s the world

I want, one stuck

to the Earth for good.

In your presence I’d settle

for a tiny island,

a small piece of dirt we call ours.

I’m not sure what you’ll say –

go away, I’m in the air,

therefore unreachable.

Or that I should try clouds,

which hide


for lightning, fold jets

inside their blue weight.

In that case I don’t desire

to breathe.  I hold my breath

until my fat skull fills

with air.

I lift off

toward space, the stars

ready to hang me with lights,

moon shaped like a tombstone.


One Star

I am born.  That’s the highlight.

Everything else stale bread,

crust not cut off, full of bologna.

I should learn to love Coming

Attractions, the worsening of vision,

high cholesterol gumming up

my blood, miracles of shrinking

as I try to recall my bones.

Except, I know at the end

they’ll be replaced by stones.

The ground will be opened

for me, so I can join the dirt,

place myself quietly in the dark.

No one will watch me then,

a film that earned no reviews,

not even the love of one person

who’d kiss me when I fell away.

I will tell angels this was one star,

and lord, I was being generous.

They won’t dress me in blue robes,

or outfit me with silver angel wings.

Instead, I’ll run the projector,

showing the image of Earth,

deep oceans, shining lands.


Telling the Myth

The snake travels on its belly

through crisp leaves to somebody’s foot.

It bites a heel, injects poison,

so the man collapses in the dirt.

His lover will kneel in pain, as if life

would not continue without his breath.

She knows where the underworld is,

between two apartment buildings,

inside a grate that leads to Hades.

When she arrives, she sings

a heavy metal song that stings

the master with happiness.  Spirits

around them bang their heads, shoot

devil signs that glow in the ice.

Her lover is escorted by Hermes,

patron of burnouts.  He says to her

there is no looking back till they reach Earth.

But she is anxious to see.  She doesn’t

know whether to believe him.

They nearly make it to the grate, but nerves

get the best of her.  Her lover glows in

surface light until she views him, then

suddenly he is no longer there.

Screaming lightning, her chest is fried.

She falls dead.

But when she reaches the layer of hell,

she does not recognize him, nor him her.

They wander around the river, drinking

each time it seems like they’ll remember,

that they can embrace even in this dark.


A Tenth of My Normal Size, I Fly on a Bird

Don’t bring me near the cat

because you think you can fly away.

I’m nothing but a doll to you,

but I have human skin and eyes,

the kind of breath that’s surrender.

My balled-up fists hurt nothing,

as I ride in the air, stuck

to your feathers with my legs.

Forget about hunting dogs

that wish to put you in their mouths.

Or the foxes swirling tails

around the bushes you eat from.

Remember only that I’m here

and I deserve protection,

a flight through all danger,

even if you wish to risk your life.

When I dismount your wings,

I will hide from evil creatures

creeping across the ground.

Threats you don’t care about

as you angle toward the clouds

and meet your own darkness:

birds of prey seeking to shred you,

leaving sprays of feathers.


I Believe in the TV Family

They quickly resolve a problem

that wasn’t one before, their

special episode proving Mom

knows best, Dad is a doof.

I put myself inside one,

and I’ve never known real

agony, the kind that upends

all apple carts, shows

worms in each fruit.

My bedroom

is clean, my calendar marked

with football practice, prom,

graduation, the blanket

neatly fold next to a pillow

which looks as soft as


When I speak it’s with a joke.

A laugh track rises around me,

the shelter for grandmother’s death,

grief I almost feel.

At the end of the show

I feel the pull back to Earth.

Where no camera eye

sees what I am.  Where I’m

invisible, even to those I love.


Donald Illich has published poetry in journals such as The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, Map Literary, Passages North, and Cold Mountain Review. He won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest. He recently published a book, Chance Bodies (The Word Works, 2018).