America’s First Female Muslim Judge Found Floating in a River


for Sheila Abdus-Salaam

In April we will find her body.
It is March. New York is gray, in between
seasons like a heart undecided
between new love and loss.
No one knows why we found her
here, the dark truth of her body rising
up from underwater. Last night, while I was walking
down Broadway, some man across the street
called me a nappy-haired spic. Near the river
cherry blossoms ripen pink as wounds
against the sky. I can’t believe
what we do to each other. Snow turns to fog
turns to dust over the branches. In ten, fifty, two hundred years
who will believe us when we say
the Earth was a hopeless chant, any man
was our captor. If I’m alive then I’m ashamed
of my mouth, silent as a thief. The man on my street corner
who begs for change, whom I choose
not to see. No one’s life is the problem. The problem is a poet
can’t always lay down in words a feeling
they know they’ll never forget. When they say
I shouldn’t feel powerless I agree, but many times
I’ve stood at the lip of this river
and wanted to crawl in.
The M60 rolling past me, kicking up muck. Maybe
the problem with the living isn’t their sorrow,
it’s that they’re still capable
of violence. The feeling I can’t forget is similar to flowers
falling quiet as knives
on the spring-punched street when they pull out
my body by the hair, and she lives.


originally published in Narrative Magazine

Isabella DeSendi

—3rd Place Winner of the 2020 Spotlight Award—

Isabella DeSendi is a Latina poet and educator whose work has been published in Narrative, Leveler, Small Orange, The Ekphrastic Review, and others. Her chapbook Through the New Body was selected as a winner of the 2019 Poetry Society of America's 30 and Under Chapbook Fellowship and is forthcoming in 2020. She was also selected as a finalist for The 2019 Frontier Digital Poetry Chapbook, the June Jordan Fellowship, Narrative Magazine’s Annual Poetry Prize, and Palette's Previously Published Poem Prize. Isabella holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University in New York City where she currently resides and works in finance.