Donald Illich

The fort was burning; the pretend soldiers
at the historical Revolutionary War site
saw only smoke where they cleaned boots

or acted as if they were on guard.
For a few seconds they thought it was fake,
just one more touch of realistic detail.

But then the screams were far too real,
people torched, overcome, dropping
to the dirt. In their exit out of the fort,

they heard the British yelling above them,
having overcome the last obstacle
to marching to southern New York.

No, that was ridiculous, they weren’t enemies.
The red hats and uniforms of the firefighters
made them delusional, fearing the foes

even when they tried to drag them to safety.
Was it the sound of cannons, or rumbling trucks,
fire engines parking near the visitor’s entrance?

Hose unwrapped to reach the insides of the hive,
where all the bees couldn’t escape.
History was dying with its custodians,

who gripped a spindle or a leather jacket,
items that could not save their lives,
prevent the breach that doomed the war.

Donald Illich has published poetry recently in The MacGuffin, Slant, and Okay Donkey. His book is Chance Bodies (The Word Works, 2018). He lives and works in Maryland.