“The Exercise of Forgiving” by Felicia Zamora

Six months ago, the measuring of whiskey
left in the jug, urine on the mattress, couch
cushions, the crotch of pants in wear. You watch
how breath lifts a chest, how a person breathes—
sick hobbies of when we must. You watch
how you become illiterate at counting.
Six or seven broken breathalyzers; a joke
formulates in your throat & you
choke back your windpipe as punchline.
How many sobs in parking lots before sun
lugged above horizon? The heart hammers
all too familiar songs behind your ribs
& these notes cut away at you. You read online
how television, internet, starving children
in numbers greater than three, polar bears,
rain forests, light from an off direction
all desensitize the human brain’s ability
to empathize. You wonder how
you chew the word panic in your jaws,
let meaning burrow into molars
seep in crevasses between root & bone.
How rot tends to the insides. You wonder
now with the inpatient tags, the cafeteria visits,
the doctors, the psychiatrists, the when do you
get to come homes, the hesitation of our bodies
sharing space again, the words I have not
drank today & your brain in flinch, how you
excavate organs for what’s left, for salvage.

Love poetry? Explore more great poets at the Academy of American Poets!

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