Francesca Bell


Mornings now, I shave the dusky down
moustache from my upper lip.
My skin, unused to the razor’s blading
glide, its scrape, breaks open
in tiny bumps. The way I’m casually broken
open all the time lately, my tears
unchanneled and at the smallest
provocation making glistening runnels
down cheeks that sprout a new meadow
of man-fuzz. Like the boys of my youth,
I gangle, awkward, trip over my own
altered self, my loins alight with a strange,
new life. Last week, in the produce aisle, a man
I’ve never been drawn to hugged me,
his hands warm the way a pilot light
is warm, its staid flicker merely dependable
in the dusty window of a hot water heater,
but I danced to life like a kerosene
slick touched by the sweet carelessness
of a match and stood there, helplessly burning.


The man keeps telling me I’m beautiful.
I still look young.

He says it like I’ve asked for it,
but I don’t care.

For him or beauty.

I am content to slip into old,
wrinkled plainness,

to walk on, unimpeded.

I was young once.
My body stunned.
My breasts were really something.

But I was something else entirely.

Something no one could see
until now.

FRANCESCA BELL is a poet and translator and the author of Bright Stain (Red Hen Press, 2019). Her work appears widely in journals such as B O D Y, New Ohio Review, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, and Prairie Schooner. She lives with her family in Novato, California.

Read more by Francesca Bell

Poems, translations, and essays in B O D Y