One burned on top of a mountain,
never going out, constantly hit
by the gods' lightning, in place
of zapping another deserving mortal.
Another smoked on a sea of oil,
which they'd never be able to clean,
loading the sky with smog and gas.
A hundred singed the open plains,
eating the grass that barely held
the dirt together through the winds.
And a hundred more lit the darkness
in a town made of lamps and propane,
smelling the scent of fumes everywhere.
But it was the smallest blaze that left
its mark, fed by birds, consuming houses,
killing those who waited too long to escape.
That was a flame worth worshiping.
that even the heavens would watch,
hoping it did not reach their gates,
wishing we could extinguish it totally.
Where the Child Belongs
Some say he could be raised up
by his mother toward the sky, so
all in the village could see his height,
power. They'll bow before him,
handing over assorted gifts to him,
from powders to diamonds. Others
view him as a devil seed, who should
be left on a mountain to be devoured
by a lion. They don't want to name him,
for fear that he might gain from words,
enabling him to charm other children
to his cause. What he is to himself
no one knows; he seems innocent,
but perhaps he's too blameless.
He talks to animals in their language,
but he somehow forgets the speech
of crows and buzzards. Most agree
he should be raised in a normal home,
where he'll learn how to read and mow
the grass, nail boards and drive a car.
If we find any danger, it will be from
our occasional visits as uncles, aunts.
We look closely for signs on his body,
a wen or a number. We believe we'll
know a monster when we spot one.
Donald Illich's poetry has appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, Passages North, and Rattle. His latest chapbook is The Art of Dissolving (Finishing Line Press 2016). Chance Bodies was just published by The Word Works.