The Gingerbread Man by Donald Illich
Associate poetry editor Francis McGill on today’s poem: Donald Illich gives the gingerbread man new life and even a real conscience, a conscience with not so much a moral hinge, but an anxious self-awareness...something over your shoulder. The gingerbread man was made to be eaten. And us? Who eats us?
The Gingerbread Man
He's always disturbed when he catches us
eating the cookies. He doesn't want to say
anything, so he runs quickly out the door,
scared a dog might eat him, leaving a gap
in his midsection. He'd have to be baked
again, flour and water added, to heal it.
It's his least favorite holiday, where all
he sees are little hims in plastic jars,
all with red gumdrop eyes, inanimate,
ready for consumption. At work he avoids
the parties, where everyone munches desserts,
where he fears to watch his boss crunching
“his legs.” At home he can pretend no one
wishes to devour him completely. He decorates
his house with frosting, tells us he's busy
with hauling up candies to the roof. We know
one day he'll drop off the ladder. We'll be there,
gathering shards, sticking them in our mouths.
Donald Illich has published in journals such as The Iowa Review, LIT, Nimrod, and Crab Creek Review. He lives in Rockville, Maryland.