Anthony Thomas Lombardi

dirge for the last night of Eric Dolphy’s life,
in two movements


the needle’s glint harsh against the mock porcelain
of the bathroom sink: the difference between what
I’m told & what is coming to define my
relationship with the truth. years later, I’m still
using silk & bone to stitch my wounds. once, my
aunt asked me to piss in a cup for her—stuttered
something about the time toxins take to escape
your body. during my own stay in detox, I carefully
count seconds between shallow breaths. I’ve seen
my grandmother, hands steady as stone, prick
blood from her finger, sink medication into her
skin, & already I’m considering the depth of my

after​ Shawn Carter

in Berlin, ​shock​ becomes a word without rendering.
a horn is muted like swallowed thunder, humming

amid lights the hue of bourbon: it sits there dumbly,
one brass syllable twisted into entropy. a holy messenger

slips between fissures like sharp wind
through an open mouth. in its raw pink:

jars of honey, a crying peacock, the vulture’s
slow spiral around heaven’s floor. even in this dying

a drop of blood could paint portraits
more vivid than stars. but history isn’t kind to men

who play God, damn near lethal, infected with ​d’evils
—& just like that, a body is freed of its haunting, cold

limbs calcified: a transatlantic song unfurling
a thaw of missed notes. even the gods will starve.

the night of Dexter Gordon’s comeback

we consider our reckoning across aisles dank & narrow

with palms so soft they could cradle
a cracked egg. in the ashen end-
of-day, we recommit

to crimes of passion, raise sacrifices

out of cinders like chalices to our lips. by morning,
the cruel workmanship of a bee
brings the colors in every flower

to pop: pale primrose, stabbing hyacinth, deep

probing peony. smeared fingers that crave the cleanse
of an open throat: plush & carnivorous, their beauty

I just walked into the room & they applauded.

then cherries, so many cherries, the first of springtime.
in their pluck is a hint of ignominy: in their glint, a sliver
of psalm. we shield our eyes & the marrow in our bones

vibrates. how sweet the sound. how sweet—

Anthony Thomas Lombardi is a Pushcart-nominated poet, organizer, and educator. He has previously served as Assistant Director for Polyphony Lit‘s Summer Scholars Program, and currently runs Word is Bond, a reading series that benefits bail funds across the country, in conjunction with the Adroit Journal, where he also serves as a poetry reader and contributor. His work has appeared or will soon in Guernica, North American Review, Gulf Coast, Colorado Review, THRUSH, Passages North, Cherry Tree, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat, Dilla.