Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Anthony Thomas Lombardi





what if mania’s comedown is merely the lost thrill of the chase

the fleetingest instant you
sprint out of the N train
stop to bulldoze my puny rain
-coated body your barely there
frame nearly knocks the umbrella
from my hands this splinter of time
i covet & carve into ice
sirens what better cure for madness
than the rush of brevity
the blue scroll of blood
-lust the accident of luck
or grace i’ve wept
until my vocal cords ached bruising
deep & raw as kettle drums listen
to me what happened
to the crescendo the strings
threatening to burst & bloom the birds
in sharp Vs chewing
the lips of winter
dusk perhaps the ocean has guzzled
them too after such
a long flight let us kiss
our faces in the melted ice
can you see yourself wait what if
you drown here take
my hand        hey!


self-portrait as eviction notice

i am running out of cities
to break my heart in:
the world & its wet dirt

                        closing in quiet as glass.
                        the last time i went home
                        for the holidays, i cleaned blood

off the floor, scrubbed
kitchen tiles until they shed
a pregnant reflection: my face

                        a solitary task. i always look
                        like i’ve just been kissed & left
                        at the altar, harboring a hunger

that loves everything
& prefers nothing.
i fear once i start

                        bingeing, i won’t know when
                        to stop—like a bear who craves
                        honey & eats the hive whole

nestling in its belly
a warm bowl of stars.
midnight coos calmly

                        with the dead moon
                        in its jaw: sooner or later
                        the light claws its way

into cellars where chests groan
under christmas trees, branches
burdened with care. the heart

                        has no nerve endings
                        can take this beating in stride
                        but the gentlest prick on my open

palm & i’m sighing sand dunes
glittering eyes like captains
on guard. as i wander neighborhoods

                        with houses like slices of cake
                        sparkling behind white-trim
                        fences, the air turns sour & i

almost expect to see my breath
burning. if the northstar
should stalk me, my hands

                        will come together in the dark
                        like knives—flour & sugar
                        & candles dissolving on my tongue.



after Leila Chatti & Aracelis Girmay

how do i make room for all this grief?
what wells are deep enough? or is it grief
that needs to make room for me?
is there enough space inside
the damp sprawling mouth of grief?
between its peeling lips, pockets
to fall into? make room, i hear,
though i’m not quite sure
where it’s coming from—
make room.

is my grief as grievous as other griefs?
if i wrap my grief in sleek, looping
ribbons, will it be as beautiful
as your grief? or is it grief that grants us
our beauty? will my wounds be beautiful, too?
my simpering, my sniveling at the awe
-stirring sight of the dogwoods in full regalia?
to what else will grief—indiscriminate
& gawking—give its beauty? the glinting talons
of a hawk, the slick fist that withdraws
when i’m famished?

did grief sell me a dream? hand me the keys?
take me on a test drive through the dirty dusk?
when did this shady play for my pockets
go down? was i too busy trying to pick the moon,
rusted penny of the sky, from the lip of the ocean
to notice? it often distracts me—
the moon, i mean. i apologize
to my grief. my grief whispers salaciously,
its tongue gummy with the scent of honey
-comb, its balmy breath dissolving
in my ear—it’s going to be a good summer.
just wait til you see how this baby tears.

& tear, it does: up & down
the molten asphalt—the smell of singed hair
steeped in my nostrils, nauseating—
that is grief. every notebook i ever spilled
myself into, every checkbook i ever peeled
myself out of—torn up by grief. my cheeks hot
with heartache—that, too, is grief.
grief holds my head under
-water, little bubbles swimming
to the surface, tiny round miracles—
inside them, grief.
artful grief. conniving grief. sniff-out-the-jewels-
in-a-room-full-of-thieves grief. need-bigger-arms-
to-carry-all-this grief. my grief eats an entire season’s
worth of strawberries in one fell swoop, spits blood
at the camera lens, dances
on graves. my grief has muscles that ripple
in the sun. my grief is boundless—
infinite. my grief is always one step
ahead of me.

i’m tired.

when i’m just about ready to surrender
to my grief, my grief softens
& shakes, eases its grip, gently releases
its hand from the nape of my neck.
the gasp that flows, my lungs freshly
freed, once i drink the sharp salty
air—that’s gratitude—it’s mawkish, i know—
stretching & yawning
across an unreachable summer sky.

so many miles just to slip
this skin. i won’t lie. i sobbed.


Photograph of Anthony Thomas Lombardi by Brooklyn Santa.

Anthony Thomas Lombardi (he/him/his) is a Pushcart-nominated poet, organizer, activist, and educator. He is the founder, host, and curator 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 appear soon in Guernica, Gulf Coast, The Journal, Colorado Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat, Dilla. More from this author →