Two Poems by Donald Illich

Rabbit

He dreamed about the rabbit.
It bounced through the lawns,
stopping to nibble flowers,
a quiet, patient animal
that scrambled to live.
He followed it through yards,
alternately lit and dark,
sometimes leaving them
in shadows. Through streets
it avoided sparse traffic,
found its warren of warm
beasts, a spot to rest.

He woke up believing
he was a rabbit. He chewed
on carrots at work,
very loudly, so his cubicle
neighbors wondered
if he had a pet. Instead
of walking he leaped through
doorways, surprising colleagues
who fell back in their chairs,
dropped papers to the floor.
Ultimately, his boss asked him
to go to the hospital, but
he refused, forcing her
to release him from his cage.

On city sidewalks, he
wandered, twitching his nose
as if he had whiskers, as if
he could smell the enemy,
a dog, a fox, or even a bear.
Foraging in dumpsters,
he chewed old vegetation,
became a creature of skin
and bone. He froze during
the long winter, when he couldn’t
fit in a lair, when he was stuck
in his human body, its blood
slowing, losing its fantasies,
turning mortal one last time.


The Map Maker

It was up to me to map the island,
to seal the shore in paper,
to burn the volcano in ink.

People who wanted to frolic
on the beaches needed to know
about sink holes, quicksand.

They didn’t wish to fall off
unstable cliffs, drop into
fissures filled with lava.

I kept watch, noticing
when my destruction was close,
when a patch of land looked
too innocent for its own good.

I’d believe I had circled it completely
when another clump of palms,
or a rash of thorny vegetation

scarred the trail. My map
became jammed with more features
than I had thought possible,

more flora and fauna
than should have ever existed.
My employers are getting nervous.

They say the work is good enough,
they’ll find the rest over time.
But how can I give up this island?

Its sharks arming themselves with teeth
at the lagoon’s edge. Its holes
that disappear to underworld realms.

Its ghosts that I follow, losing myself
into a trip that never ends, that starts
over with a clean sheet, empty mind.


Profile: Donald Illich

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