The Shopper

I wanted anything but myself.
A smattering of pineapples,
a bushelful of turkey jerky,
a load of dark chocolate bars.
When I put my mouth on them

I disappeared, I was skin, juice,
I was the matter inside my belly.
It felt like being in a washing
machine, soapy water up to my eyes.
When I was done nutrients filled

my body, allowed me to become
a source of energy, bullet of heat.
Soon, I’d be stuck as myself again.
The brain, the mind, a conscience.
I tried rolling in the mud like a pig.

Leaping over fences into yards,
a deer captured in someone’s camera.
I couldn’t get rid of myself.
My jaws ached for roast beef,
meat off the bone, bloody flesh.

I would always be the shopper.
A full basket of what I required
to avoid my body’s humanity.
Someone would ring me up,
grimacing, flat-eyed as the dead.


Escorting the Dead

We know the dead. We understand
what they want – wine, blood, jewels.
Hand in hand we walk them to town,

introduce them to our living friends.
Soon there are more dead, more than
we can count. We try filing them

in graves, alphabetical, by tombstone.
We hope, after a while, they’ll go away.
That they’ll hitch a ride on a train,

find work at the nearest post office.
Some of us will love the dead,
kissing at the cemetery, escorting them

to mom and dad for an introduction.
Most of us will just try to pretend
they aren’t there. That they’re figures

who try to haunt us, but we won’t
let them. We pass between their bones,
as if they were the homeless who

we can’t admit exist. Some evening
they’ll knock on our doors, will refuse
to go away until we come with them.

It can’t be some glamorous river
we have to cross, or a boatman asking
for coins. We will be pushed off

a cliff, to land hard in the dirt,
and rise in the morning, our names
suddenly on the lips of those we loved.


Donald Illich has published poetry in journals such as The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, and Cold Mountain Review. He won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest. His full-length collection, Chance Bodies, recently came out in 2018 from The Word Works. He lives in Rockville, Md., and works as a writer-editor.