Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Exercise of Forgiving

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
drunk today & your brain in flinch, how you
excavate organs for what’s left, for salvage.


Copyright © 2019 by Felicia Zamora. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“For the past few years, someone I love has been struggling with clinical depression and alcoholism, a journey that has reshaped both our understandings of ourselves as humans and the space we inhabit with each other. These diseases can make people raw, rub you down to only nerve endings, and make you question everything you know. I naively thought I understood empathy and forgiveness before, but now I’m learning how to regenerate, pay attention, listen, and love boldly, and how sometimes we must brave the wound’s exposure to allow for any real healing to begin.”
—Felicia Zamora


Felicia Zamora

Felicia Zamora is the author of three poetry collections, including, most recently, Instrument of Gaps (Slope Editions, 2018) and & in Open, Marvel (Parlor Press, 2018).

Date Published: 2019-01-03

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