Donald Zirilli was a finalist for the James Tate Prize and a nominee for Best of the Net and the Forward Prize. He edited Now Culture and is on the board of Red Wheelbarrow Poets, Inc. His poetry was published in The 2River View, Anti- poetry magazine, ART TIMES, Nerve Lantern, River Styx, and other periodicals and anthologies. His chapbook, Heaven’s Not For You, was published in September, 2018, by Kelsay Books. http://zirealism.com
Mulberry Junior High Presents Jesus Christ Superstar
A little girl stumbles over a cross
lying flat on the stage. She mutters
about Our Town in the fall
and shutting off cellphones.
A fat old man plays rock guitar.
He’ll be my khoros.
I’ll turn to him, watch for
frantic nods or shakes
of his head, silhouetted
by a harsh little light
clamped to his music stand.
In the darkness, children take their places.
One prepares to die. Two take up spears.
A traitor clears his throat. What they all fear most
is forgetting. King Herod’s a tap dancer,
smiling through a scowl. He doesn’t know
what it’s like to turn away from a stranger
in the throes of some remembered pain,
any more than the prostitutes in the Temple
know what a kiss is. Applause, whispers
about true identities, easy dance moves
in elaborate combinations,
the palming of nails,
the performance, the misunderstanding
of a play that misunderstands a story
told in four misunderstandings about a man
who was misunderstood, who stood alone
as he was stripped of cloth and health
and life and finally words, like my balding khoros
waving at what’s left of his choreography
as if to say, “don’t step on the sleepers,
Peter, John, James – let them lie.”