—for Christine Blasey Ford

In the hippocampus, she says, they bounce around
like swallows dodging heavy blots of rain.

Like ivy, beauty makes her weapon
by making her like beauty: what men can

never hold. For the rest of her
life, every neural path is a coffin

of thought. When she sleeps
their beaks like laughter, drill deep

into her brain. I remember the year
after the first year. After numbness

when I would walk out to the edge
of a road, flat as a river

and whisper madly to the stars.
The well of my mind, darkening.

The highway’s thick spine, heavy
as water against my back.

O God, if what divides
destroys then I understand

the mind, why it must live
separately from the heart.

Now, when I walk along the ocean
only the brutality of the tide. The moon

doomed in splendor, summoning
the water to rise and spin.

Like that, we tried to obey and love
the gentle crushing. Like that we fall

and fall. Now, how will we learn to hold
a face again when even orchids look like lips

bruised and sewn together? Yes, I tried
to love again, but when my man

undressed me, I felt the hands
of every man then felt

I couldn’t breathe. No one was to blame.
It was spring. Buds were busy

mocking me, proving we could live
through many deaths. How dare I? I thought

but here’s what no one told us:
every gentle thing will lose or lose

its body. That’s the problem with surviving
again and again, as we have. Poppies will yawn

themselves awake, their bloodstained mouths.
One day you’ll have to live.

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.