Francesca Bell

Photo by Emily Petrie

Flying Solo

Role play is harder
alone in the hotel room,
it being more difficult
to suspend disbelief

I can’t look at the ruined body
even I don’t want to touch anymore,
flesh inching down my bones’ sheer faces.

I’m striated, stretch marks rising,
a blurred Braille, across skin
that tears easy as paper now.

I never tell my right hand
what my left hand is doing
as my fingertips open me and linger,
stuttering on the sad parts.

Oh, darling, I whisper, let me touch you.

Don’t worry. I can disappoint you as well as anyone.

Approaching Sleep

I want to get to sleep
the way a person
gets there
in Persian

not by falling
or going

I want to be taken

the way a wildfire
takes a neighborhood

the way age
takes beauty
and grinds it to dust

the way water takes our dirty faces
in its ungraspable hands

the way a lover
finds you in the position
called begging
and takes you

the way you take him
into your body

before sleep steals in
and takes you both after


There are so many ways
to call what’s holy,
but though I summon You,
You do not come.
You’re like a dream
I cannot quite remember.
Only Your name,
a taste I cannot place,
whispers on my tongue.
Your little one, I simper along,
Your little joke, Your little song,
but nowhere in the catalogue
of this world do I find You.

FRANCESCA BELL is the author of Bright Stain, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Julie Suk Award, and What Small Sound, and the translator of Max Sessner’s Whoever Drowned Here, all from Red Hen Press. In addition to B O D Y, her work appears in ELLE, New England Review, and Rattle. She is the poet laureate of Marin County, a translation editor for the Los Angeles Review, the events coordinator for the Marin Poetry Center, and the Arts Program Coordinator for the Friends of the San Quentin Prison Library.

Read more by Francesca Bell

Poems and more in B O D Y
Poem in New Ohio Review
Poem in Rattle
Poem in Baltimore Review