Donald Illich


Scarlet Doll

The fortress is almost finished.
I move action figures through
the block castle, imagine them
destroying the tiny Army men
with mismatched laser rifles

I found at the toy box’s bottom.
Mom’s been ignoring me all
morning, studying medical
records textbooks. She makes
a bologna sandwich while

forgetting to make me one.
She scratches her scalp as if her
hair could give her the answers.
“Can you stop buzzing?” she
asks. “Go to your bedroom.”

I switch to faint explosion
noises when my Transformers
hit a bazooka man in the head,
a whispery roar when a tank
crashes through yellow logs

keeping my mom, the Scarlet doll,
inside the blue cubes’ prison.
She’s nearly freed when she
yells, “I can still hear you!”
Before she can stand up, I’ve

left for comic books on my bed.
I drop her on the carpet. The dog
can chew on her plastic body.
My brothers can accidentally
kick her clear across the room.

Donald Illich has published poetry in The Iowa Review, LIT, Fourteen Hills, Passages North, Roanoke Review, Pinyon, and Cold Mountain Review. His work will appear in future issues of Nimrod, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Combo, and The Sulphur River Literary Review. He received a Prairie Schooner scholarship to the 2006 Nebraska Summer Writer’s Conference and won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest.