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—
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.
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.