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anthony thomas lombardi / poem

the saints who love us & the saints who don't

death can be so polite     the reaper through the peephole      with a bouquet & the gait of a felled redwood       your name on his scythe     like a gift tag on your toe      or a nail

in the road      bites his tongue     when the sky blooms a shade of blue      he doesn’t like

i hold my breath     past every cemetery leave claw marks     on every last grudge    & still

the world in its cold way   comes alive    in this house we refuse the names     of the dead

let them fall like salt      or sin it never hurts to give thanks     to the local gods you never know who might be hungry      in japan there is a practice among monks     who follow gradual starvation      until plague is passed for feast      lock themselves in tombs     while still breathing i cover the bone     protruding from my chest with my hands   a little useless praying never hurt     anyone like a tidal wave     seething by the lip of a ghost town     i will swallow every syllable      left in the laps of martyrs my mouth        marbled at the thought of spitting up     my life’s work soot settled with hot black silk     in a belly like a miniature mausoleum       my father’s gun & my mother’s       damaged ammo & so

a dozen sharp edges to draw blood     one way to walk scalding coals is to walk     around them     promise stigmata to each limb left unscathed     i can’t even see the saints past the keyhole spilling smoke     how do i even open a door     so light       tell me           how


Anthony Thomas Lombardi is the author of Murmurations (YesYes Books, 2025), a Poetry Project 2021-2022 Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow, and a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, among other accolades. He has taught or continues to teach with Borough of Manhattan Community College, Paris College of Art, Brooklyn Poets, Polyphony Lit’s apprenticeship programming, community programming throughout New York City, and currently serves as a poetry editor for Sundog Lit. His work has appeared or will soon in the Poetry Foundation, Best New Poets, Guernica, Black Warrior Review, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat, Dilla.

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