Poems

ISABELLA DeSENDI
Buffalo

Spring will come and with it the audacious dirt
and corrugated banks reliquefied blue. Upstate, 
where I met your father for the first time, we mazed
our way through a snow-barreled zoo
confettied with funereal trees: final markings
of winter. Early in this still, I felt new
when you placed your hand on my neck, soft
as a moth’s wing, wind-ripped, resting, 
having awakened and fed, full with dark. 
This feeling was the opposite of dusk beginning
to lay itself down like a ghost in the long grass. 
In a knot of red branches white birds 
nested, made me think of blood and skin, 
my mother’s disease, and the horrible truth
that all our parents will die. I try to hide
the thought from you, but you’ve already learned
how desolation unravels me. Things like
this sky slurred blue by winter’s music
aiming its harshness everywhere. Things like 
the buffalo, which has exited his man-made den 
and walks over to where we stand, nuzzles 
our palms pressed flush against the gate. 
It was as if I suddenly understood 
my life when that creature stepped into 
the world and kissed the soft side of my hand. 
Such terrific beauty confined in that ridiculous cage. 
My disbelief, my pity. His tenderness despite.
What else could be more miraculous 
than an imprisoned thing that chooses gentleness, 
still yearns to be touched? At any point, 
the buffalo could change his mind, run through 
the hole-pocked fence, and obliterate us. 
I turned to you and said I hoped we would be 
this trusting forever. I wanted to set him free. 
We were foolish, of course. We knew that. 
You moved closer to the gate, pressed your face 
against an opening in the slats the way a saint 
might approach a god he’s never met 
but trusts, and you touched his eye
with your eye. You were not afraid.

Isabella DeSendi is a Latina poet and educator whose work has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry, The Adroit Journal, Narrative and others. Her debut poetry collection will be published by Four Way in 2025, and her chapbook Through the New Body won the Poetry Society of America’s Chapbook Fellowship, published  in 2020. Most recently, she was named a finalist for Rattle’s $15,000 Poetry Prize, received a Poet’s & Writer’s BIPOC grant, the Denise Bell Award from Brooklyn Poets, and has also been considered a finalist for the Frontier Digital Poetry Chapbook, the June Jordan Fellowship, Narrative Magazine’s Annual Poetry Prize, and Palette’s Spotlight Award. She has attended Bread Loaf, Storyknife, and received her MFA from Columbia University. Currently, she lives in Hoboken with her partner and their dog, Ziggy.