Donald Illich has published poetry in journals such as The Iowa Review, Nimrod, Passages North, and Sixth Finch. His chapbook, published by Finishing Line Press, is “The Art of Dissolving.” He lives in Rockville, Maryland.
I caught a fly with my eyelids.
I wouldn’t let it go. Its wings
battered my pupil, it buzzed
into the vision of my body.
Would I one day release it?
Not if I couldn’t learn its secrets.
To see so many ways, angles.
To live one day and be satisfied.
To fly past traps, not be caught.
I once wore a giant fly costume.
I pretended to bump into windows.
To be eaten by a friend dressed
as a bird. Now I hum its language,
demanding its wisdom, saying
I will free it if it talks back to me.
But I hear nothing, soon it’ll die.
I blink, let it escape out a window.
I will need to find another fly.
I want my true wings to grow.
I desire vision beyond my own.
All the seats were filled but his.
The teacher could only laugh,
as he was absent once again.
The chair radiated disappearance,
from the lessons, from life.
When he did show up he couldn’t say
what he had done that day, where
he had gone, what he had wanted.
His teacher hadn’t filled in the circle
where his check mark went.
But she could not bring herself
to flunk him for missing homework,
or to call his parents and tell them
what was happening. The emptiness
in the middle of the rows hypnotized
her. It became her sign, her omen.
If he showed up, then her day
would darken, her car breaking,
her apartment smashed by thieves,
her partner yelling at her in the morning.
One day she locked the school’s doors.
And she kept doing it, doing it, until
he faded from existence. He didn’t
appear in the list of students. He
didn’t have to say present again.