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i think i’m finally ready to admit that i don’t know the first thing about forgiveness

once i wandered in penance an oasis desolate as an ocean

cleared by a storm the only souls still around a small band of ghosts

who stretched their legs on a sunless veranda rattling a tune

with jars full of teeth i plucked petals off pale tulips

heard the same song in she loves me not

& can this kill me

for years i’d steal every vessel from its siren

pick the matchwood out of my throat with fingernails thick

as nickels i made no distinction between powder that soothes

a baby’s gums & powder that puts down tameless broncos

when i tottered into detox the intake nurse didn’t bother

to swallow her awe with a heartbeat like that, it’s a miracle

you’re still alive

it’s no wonder i see desire

the way it looks in cartoons hyenas walk upright as charmed

as you or i by a parrot’s speech coyotes with tongues like runways

never catch their prey & nobody starves even pigeons dumb

with hunger barrel into glass & get rewarded

with crowns full of stars

in lieu of apologies i’ve learned to sing

a sound so solemn passing strangers stop to leave spare pennies

on my eyes but the birds just crane their necks & peck themselves

godless pavement flecked with little red florets the heart pumps & pumps


ANTHONY THOMAS LOMBARDI (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated poet, organizer, activist, and educator. He is the founder and director of Word is Bond, a community-centered reading series that raises funds for transnational relief efforts and mutual aid organizations, and currently serves as a poetry editor for Sundog Lit. A recipient of the Poetry Project’s Emerge-Surface-Be Fellowship, his work has appeared or will soon in Guernica, Gulf Coast, The Journal, Colorado Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat, Dilla.