It was time to be human.  To be warm blooded.
To find our opposable thumbs, to use our big brains.
But we didn’t want to.  We wished to fit in the goldfish
bowl, to spurt after gold flakes on the top.
We hoped to rumble over pink horizons, roaring,
a grizzly searching for food.  Or even the worm
inside the soil, ready to be dug out, placed on a hook.
No, being human was too much of a responsibility.
People would ask us to operate on a sick patient,
or to carry these heavy briefcases with secret launch
codes.  We’d be expected to fall in love, care for
another person’s heart like it was a fragile medallion.
We’d hear it call us always, even under dirt
we could not dig up.  We’d throw our bodies on it,
still feeling the beat that does not go away,
even if it’s a ghost that lures us to our burial.


We swore we could tell who were wolves
in sheep’s clothing.  Which one had eaten
grandma, who tried to blow houses down.

Some of them had feasted on a human child
while another gave milk to the founders
of an empire.  We were sure of them, too.

The wolves we worried about were unnamed,
unmentioned in any story.  They ate the moon
in a single bite.  They tore apart the boy

who had gone off in the forest by himself.
We wanted to avoid these creatures, their fangs
haunting our dreams of peace in the woods,

calm in the meadows.  They laughed at us.
There would always be an animal nearby
at your throat, where blood is, where it bleeds.





Donald Illich has published poetry in The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, and Cold Mountain Review. He won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest.