self-portrait as murmuration

— Anthony Thomas Lombardi

imagine, for instance, a wounded bird—
               the only reflection that greets you.
this is not a fun-

               house. my bathroom is aggressively plain,
houses all of my everyday essentials: Q-tips,
               anti-frizz curl crème, little pink pills

that assure me they’re non-habit
               forming. I don’t know what to do
with my tenderness.

               suppose, then, a low end bass rattle
that weakens a pair of solid,
               brawny legs. acclimation becomes

a necessary refrain. even Lady Day,
               gardenias adorning her crown, found ways
to summon evil after begging the moon

               for clemency. how she sang hunger
& meant ​penance​, coaxed fear out of a sidewinder
               with a few coiled moans. this, too,

is the meeting between predator
               & prey: the crackle of a voice & the swell
of violence in a swill

               of vodka. this season’s starlings will still
take flight, arch & stretch their width
               to fill a drinkable winter night. every feather knows

what the sky knows—wings beating
               like arrhythmia. I have a strange affection
for those creatures who crave mercy

               but wind up instead with something like love:
a tangle of thin, threaded spiders’ nests
               doted on while we sweep out ashes from the fire

-place. the best of us end here, with limbs so knotted
               you can’t tell whose wrist
you’re pulling from the blue-tipped blaze. in the bathroom mirror,

               cheekbones sharp & eyes like aimless weeds, I meet
your face with the composure
               of a middle distance runner. the birds bend

the wind to their will & somewhere
               in this bloom, Lady sings
the blues.

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