The Mistake

posted Mar 20, 2012

Let us remember
when we did everything right.
When we painted the skies blue,
didn’t forget to tell the sun when to rise.

How we explained the phases
of the moon to the wolves, kissed the chickens
for not understanding their eggs.

Even how we taught the piano
to play by itself indescribable melodies,
while the tone deaf were imprisoned
in a cage made of bum notes.

Now it is all a mistake.
The mountains climb their own heights,
challenge the sky angrily.

Rivers run back in on themselves,
surrounding cities on all sides,
with no escape for the wicked or innocent.

The earth plans to die early
by burning itself without questions,
leaving the last scientist here
to close the world’s door.

We could figure out a way to stop it.
Use our breath and speech for good,
ask humanity if it could fall in love
with the landscape, if it could embrace
earthworms and badgers,

while throwing its vehicles
into a faraway junkyard
for the acidic atmosphere to eat.
We could but we won’t.

Our mistakes can’t be stitched together
to form a Frankenstein
who will chase us to the end of the planet
until we save it.

The world is prepared.
Even the sun knows
it must swallow it someday.

Donald Illich has published in The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, Passages North, Cream City Review, and other journals. He was selected as Honorable Mention for The Washington Prize, and was named a semifinalist for the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest. He works as a writer-editor for the federal government in Rockville, Maryland.

We’ve published two more poems by Illich: “Disaster” and “The Talent.”