Don Zirilli – Five Poems


The Making of Don Quixote

The camera sees the massive chest of a horse.
It’s heartbreak to make a movie,
a heartbreak in a small desert.
It’s heartbreak to be inside of a puppet,
heartbreak to play a giant, or to look like a king.
It’s heartbreak to be on a hot road,
the heartbreak of laughing.
I’m laughing on horseback on a hot road.
I’m on horseback to play a giant, or to look like a king,
on horseback inside a puppet,
on horseback in a small desert,
making a movie on horseback,
charging against my own heart, unafraid.

Cherry Bomb

O, this is hire and salary, not revenge. -Hamlet

Mr. Cherry went to heaven
because he was a religious man
with traditional values.
The four girls were there, too,
because they died in church.
They taught him clapping games,
but his old, knotted hands could make no sound.
He drinks lemonade with them
on a big white porch,
because that’s all heaven is:
the inside taken outside,
a humble stage.

The History of Line Breaks

Before the Maginot, before the Mason-
Dixon, there were lines, and they were broken.
From Dallas to LA to Chappaquiddick
to Martha’s Vineyard, Constantine could conquer
but could not draw a line without it being
crossed by another. Jesus Christ, the Wright
brothers, had the same idea: they looked
at the horizon, thought that they could break it.
They were as clever as the Greeks, as those
who broke blind Homer’s one long line, who piled
it up that we who have eyes might see — like numbers
in the Bible, like Cummings making space.
Tell Iggy, Yoko and Marcel their cuts
are nothing new. It all started on
the queue for Cats, many hours ago.

One Spring

There is only one Spring, coming to us
again and again. The perennials never tire
of showing off their blooms. There’s a room
we find ourselves returning to, where different faces
have the same conversation. Spring has its own Fall,
bright on the ground. We lose the same thing
every year, and we never find it. Stumbling,
we trip on the sun. We wonder what it is.


Why is life so brief? A charred piece
of last night’s dinner flashing on the stove,
a home you can’t go back to,
an underfunded country road
ending suddenly and nowhere, why is life so brief?

Why is life so long? A night without sleep,
the cold stare of a grey sky, the shepherding
of pets to their good-byes, children
growing serious and bored, closed doors
with knobs gone, why is life so long?

Why is there sorrow? To what end
do tears make way, what treasure
is purchased by pain, what use are names
no longer answered to, a suit
with no place to go, why is there sorrow?

Why is there joy? What lights the eyes,
lifts the mischief in breath to mirthful words,
why do we burn to tell our shame
and laugh as though laughing cures,
why is no grief pure, why is there joy?


Author’s Statement on Beauty

If you look hard at sorrow without giving up on life, you will see beauty. You will see that sorrow is only possible if you have a deep connection to something outside of yourself, and beauty is the manifestation of that connection to your perception. So, yes, beauty is also in joy, because joy is the immersion in that connection. That’s when beauty surrounds us so fully we can barely distinguish it. In sorrow, the connection is broken, and we see beauty shining brightly in the distance, calling us back to what we’ve lost.


Donald Zirilli’s poetry has been published in River Styx, Art Times, Nerve Lantern, Specs, Antiphon, and other literary magazines and anthologies. He was the editor of Now Culture and the art editor of The Shit Creek Review, and is currently one of the Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow Gang of Five. He and his wife, Dr. Russell, live in Tranquility, New Jersey, with 2 dogs and 3 cats.