Donald Zirilli

Backyard Enlightenment

Using the wrong end of a rake,
I have drawn a spiral in the sand. I have drawn
a spiral from the sand. I am growing my dizziness. I have a warning
about the poems I sent you. They’re not done. The poems that you asked for
are not quite written. Whatever you saw in them is not entirely out of me.
They may best be read by waiting. (Finish them and keep
only the finish.) I’m waiting for my dog
to do her business in the Zen garden. How perfectly she understands.
Imagine how cool I look pulling my upside-down rake
a few inches through the sand, taking another step,
pulling again, the same movements repeated like a Tai Chi master
with no burden of mastery. This used to be a swimming pool. What was I?
I’m dizzy with this enactment of dizziness, exhausted
with calm. I lie down next to what used to be a spiral. It
waves and waves and waves. From what position can I see
my dizziness? Imagine how cool I look
lying on landscaping bricks, wondering when the ants will reach me,
considering I might be in a Tai Chi position called Unable to Get Up.
Forgetting the pretension of knowing that I am sinking
further toward darkness, I lift my head from my raft of landscaping bricks,
curious, amazed, perfectly ignorant, looking out across,
peering with shaded eyes over
the inability to finish a thought, a spiral if you will,
a surge of whirlpool, with all the innocence
of the wrong end of a pen.

Controlled Descent

Screams wake you up. The window
you always counted on
has replaced backyard with balloon.

These things go where they will.
It’s something all the passengers agree to,
but not the rest of us.

The pilot didn’t mean to go this far.
You tell her last time
they gave you wine and cheese.

She takes down your address.
Like a minor god of open space,
you will receive her offering.

You show her the old album
where your children who are no longer children
fold a giant balloon.

In a photo across the page,
the late Aunt Enid sits for some holiday,
a little lost, excited not to know.

In the Midst of Describing

what my dog sees,
I describe my dog

to show that she is waiting
for a sound she is too deaf to hear
of an engine that no longer runs
in a car that isn’t coming,

because the waiting
is the color of what she sees,
a pink blur teetering torch-like
above a fog-filled abyss,

an independent vision
before which she stands
patient, panting, and still,
because everywhere she goes
is a ledge one dog wide.

Not Speak

my grandmother
to whom I could not speak
the life of me
the quietly eating candy
mountains her small eyes
closed her mystery
now asks to be
considered grief

whom I could not ask
tired as she was
her head held up to see
some heavy invisible to me
strong as I was dumb
whom I saw straining
could not see dying
with others
she prepared her way

of whom I could not ask
choking in a blanket
as of snow on Christmas
over evergreens
the endless life
gasping through
painful seasons
but I believe I heard
her long ago forgiving me

already for today
for the wintry
blankness of my head
the dull abandoned
fireplace of my heart
in a house burned down
that she would answer
to whom I would not speak

Donald Zirilli was a finalist for the James Tate Prize, was nominated for Best of the Net and the Forward Prize, and edited Now Culture. His poetry swims in River Styx and other wetlands. He lives with wife and pets in pastoral New Jersey. His chapbook is Heaven’s Not For You, Kelsay Books, 2018.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.