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Donald Zirilli

The Circumstances Under Which Two Players May Consider Themselves Drawn


Both players are willing to confess that they are drawn
to each other, and both believe
the other’s confession.

This can occur over a multitude of signed documents
observed by certified witnesses
or in a single look across a small table or couch.


Neither player can feel anything anymore.


Everything he does, she has done.
The magazine in the hammock
says nothing about her
that he doesn’t know. The lies
are the good part.


One player is stronger, younger, smarter
and faster. He has more money, more friends
and gets more respect from children.
The other player is unable to move,
but it is her turn to move.


He has a full box of his favorite cereal,
but no milk. He has no reason to expect
that she will buy the milk, except that
she always buys the milk.

A year later, he reaches for her
and his arm hits the bed, thudding
like a bomb that didn’t go off.

Is This a Game to You?

King’s Pawn Opening

You stroll to the center of the room, beginning to feel
the Persian rug is yours, as though your feet were deeds,
and you stare at the four beautiful corners. One side
gets sun windows, the other side sun walls, then they switch.
Another day.

Modern Defense

Sometimes the best defense is no defense at all.
Sometimes we betray ourselves… and the broken pieces
will make a stronger concrete, if we’re fine enough.
If I could look just a few steps further ahead,
right where you become a road, I’d know how apart
to fall.

Insufficient Material

After a lot of war and drinking, two world leaders
stumble into the street. Incapable of hurting each other,
they deliver heartfelt toasts and ultimately sing
until turtles spin and the asphalt relents just enough
to swallow their shoes. They want to reminisce,
but their stories tangle together and can’t get
to the end.


Donald Zirilli (he/him), James Tate Prize finalist, Best of the Net nominee, Forward Prize nominee, Red Wheelbarrow Poets, Inc. board member, and Now Culture editor, has dropped poetry into River Styx and other wetlands. He was the Poetry Adjudicator at the NJ State Teen Arts Festival of 2022. His chapbook is Heaven’s Not For You, Kelsay Books, 2018.

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