Punchdrunk as bark being struck
by an ax: that’s how your music broke me.
In yellow spotlight, smoke curled
around your face like woodbine climbing
the dark-skinned maples. Hearing you play
was like watching a sculptor pluck music
from memory, wield the smoke-filled air.
What I loved most about your performance
was the way you summoned me to dance
like a snake being charmed. I was reckless
and porous, unspooling
myself in the bruise-blue dark. Isn’t this how
it always re-begins? I let go. You reappear
without notice like a childhood stammer.
I know I shouldn’t admit to this
but it’s impossible to look away
from your hands, rough and sweating
on the gold-necked sax. When your fingers skate
across the instrument’s body, rawboned
and gleaming, I think of the way your tongue
often sailed like a punt across me. Those altissimo
notes, sharp and bright as daffodils
unfurling, already beginning to dwindle away.
Like every solo you’ve ever played
or any man I’ve tried to love, we know
what dazzles disappears, shatters into silence.
At some point, I will learn to let you go
the way we let go of flowers
or the dead. Those we’ve carried & worshipped,
tended to & begged. Like them, you’ll leave me
half-relieved and grieving, holding petals
that I’ve shred. I’m scared of your absence,
what it will prove. I hope I do not suffer.
Isabella DeSendi is a Cuban-Italian poet living in New York City. In the past year, she completed her MFA in poetry at Columbia University and was selected as a finalist for both the 2017 June Jordan Fellowship and Narrative Magazine’s Annual Poetry Prize. Isabella currently works in finance..