the first cigarette after my second stay in the Bellevue psychiatric unit isn’t nearly as good as I remember it being & for a brief moment I consider quitting yet still ignore a homeless man who asks for a loosie & feel so ashamed I cross the street where there is no crosswalk

& miss

a speeding cab

by inches. I hoard

anything that will kill me:

loose change, denial so refined

it could talk a cat off a fish cart or

a fasting monk into a full belly, the royal I.

even the deathwishes now are kind.

bipolar disorder, the med student

said, like she was rattling off

a line of poetry, her eyes

a vista exposed above

a powder blue mask,

braids swept like

an ocean over

a salt-licked


I let her

see me like this:

Adidas joggers for

seven days straight, logo

worn into a squashed insect.

her paperwork is spread like an

offering: heavy smoker, one pack a day

& dancing behind my eyes, this lyrical

penchant for excessive rationale: but I stopped

shooting dope, I haven’t had a bead of booze in five years, I

deserve some kind of relief, don’t I? St. Jude,

patron saint of lost causes, is in my ear,

pitching me the riches of martyrdom,

breath gummy & glib, mistaking

my fever for passion. I swat

him away as if he were

a bee blundering for

a blush. evasion

is often godly




the sun hangs

like a bottlecap half

-buried in sand, the N

train thrumming, half-full,

its steady fluorescent flicker

like a voice that’s about to break

—& when it does, I’m back in a cathedral

under white sheets, my breath-damp cavern,

cotton clenched between my teeth so tight I can taste

each thud in my chest. my med student is here, her neck

smooth as ivory, tall as the Tower of Babel, so close to God

it must be toppled. I want to hurry back to the home

-less man, hand him my carton, cellophane

wrapper gleaming in the glow of the just

rising moon, laugh a hearty laugh, our

hands caked with grease, cigarette

tips winking at the dark end of

the train tracks, kiss him on

his face like it’s a crucifix,

streetlamps blooming

above us as sudden

& predictable as

a reflection.

the train stops

where it’s supposed

to stop, my key fits where

it’s supposed to fit. forgive me

I am still learning to love

this body.

Anthony Thomas Lombardi is a Pushcart-nominated poet, organizer, and educator. He was named a finalist in Autumn House Press’s 2020 Chapbook Contest, the Mississippi Review’s 2021 Prize for Poetry, and the 9th Annual Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest, and was longlisted for the 2020 Palette Poetry Emerging Poet Prize. 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 and mutual aid organizations, 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, wildness, North American Review, Gulf Coast, Colorado Review, THRUSH, Passages North, Cherry Tree, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat, Dilla.