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.

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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..