Poetry by Tom Lombardo

Robins and Orioles

Flying northeast, robins and orioles
feast by the hundreds in the yards

below, chirping fury of spent birds,
gluttons for the glowing garnet holly berries.

My children stare, keep vigil for half an hour
while I read New British Poetry in my peaceful chair.

My wife takes the children out for an hour
or so. The first thump I hear

against the back door
barely cocks my ear.

At the second pop,
my eyes jump

from Sujata Bhatt.
The third splat

motivates me. My guess—
a bird full speed whacking glass.

At the back door.
One dead robin, an oriole quavering on the deck floor,

wing shattered, eyes black and blinking,
thorax thumping.

The orange & gold feeding frenzy continues
sans these two azoic cousins

and me. What to do? Lana would weep
and nurse the oriole back to flight. Hope would weep

and shy away. The children,
due home soon,

would demand inspection,
then dissection.

I go to the garage for the shovel.
The azalea leaves suffle—

as the robin and oriole fly through—swish-swish,
two thumps on the dark, sweet mulch.

Summer Camp

The hit on my hip
from Tony Duckett’s shoulder pad—
a sharp, pointed ache, a limp,
a yellow ring, center dripping red,

like the bruise on my brain
from a helmet crack when Jack Krakowski
charged like a bull, me a train,
whistling coaches’ tackling drills today.

I saw Orion in daylight despite
the orange glow of the Edgar Thompson Works—
open-hearth pulsing night and daylight
off the Monongahela River waters

after my bedtime story and daddy’s kiss,
that orange glow blots out my starlight,
I hear the pounding noises all night,
titans knocking each other senseless

with ingots made of coke and ore
gouged from Earth. Titans taunt:
Come down to the Mon and fight.
I try to run. My eyes shudder closed.

I watch red sparks flicker
on the backs of my eyelids
receding galactic fire
from past big bangs.

Reprinted with the author’s permission from California Quarterly.

What It Means To Be a Running Back

Each of us, a football’s guardian.
On rainy days, muddy practice, a tradition—
Each of us carries a football, drill to drill, all day,
practicing handoffs, pitches, plays, the ballet
of footsteps, counter-step left,
feint of feet, two steps right,
accept handoff from quarterback
as if it were a newborn, tuck
it in, a cradle, look for the hole, cut,
and fly from Coach “Wild Bill” Sullivan’s threat—
if you ever drop the football, rain or shine,
you’re not a running back, you’re line.

We tuck the balls, because of mud,
more tightly to our bellies.

It’s the running backs rainy-day tradition
that distinguishes us from linemen
who grunt and grovel and bash each other
ruthlessly, except when they break for their
rainy-day tradition. Coach “Jumbo” Wheeler gathers
them around his special spot and pulls
a fat worm from the mud, holds it up,
wriggling. Blindly, the linemen look up,
a nest of baby robins. Fifty yards away,
where we, the running backs, prance and play,
we hear linemen roar—it makes us squirm—
announcing which has won the worm.

We tuck the balls, because of mud,
more tightly to our bellies.

Reprinted with the author’s permission from Atlanta Review.


About Tom Lombardo

Tom Lombardo is a poet and writer who lives in Midtown Atlanta. He is poetry series editor for Press 53, a literary publisher in Winston-Salem, NC, and was editor of After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, an anthology featuring 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations. His poems have appeared in journals in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and India, including Southern Poetry Review, Ambit, Subtropics, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature, Atlanta Review, New York Quarterly, Chrysalis Reader, and others.  Tom’s nonfiction has appeared previously in Chrysalis Reader and other publications and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Small Press, 2009. His criticism has been published in New Letters, North Carolina Literary Review, and South Carolina Review. He earned a B.S. from Carnegie-Mellon University, an M.S. from Ohio University, and an M.F.A. from Queens University of Charlotte.