National Poetry Month Day 10: Francesca Bell


Francesca Bell’s poems appear in many journals, including B O D Y, ELLE, New Ohio Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and River Styx. Her work has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize, and she won the 2014 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle. Her co-translations from Arabic appear in Berkeley Poetry Review, Blue Lyra Review, Circumference, Four by Two, and Laghoo. Her translations from German are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review. She co-translated Shatha Abu Hnaish’s book of poems, A Love That Hovers Like a Bedeviling Mosquito (Dar Fadaat, 2017), and Red Hen Press will publish her first collection, Bright Stain, in 2019.


Every Two Hours, the Letdown Burns

By the time I uncover my breast—
t-shirt, bra, nursing pad—

the baby is at full cry,
its wide-open wailing;

like a kettle at hard boil,
over-roiling, at scream.

The sound is a pulled trigger,
spraying milk everywhere.

The duvet will sour.
My shirt, stain.

In this circuit, I’m neither detonator
nor what absorbs the charge.

I’m the casing left behind,
the part blown empty.



Rules of Engagement

On the ride to laser tag,
our Korean students ask
if it’s possible to shoot yourself,
to end your own game,
which reminds them of the soldier
back home who ran off with
guns and ammunition, two words
they get exactly right.
The words for mental illness elude them,
but he had something
wrong, they say, something like ADHD
their all-purpose acronym
for every kind of crazy—and anyway,
he hid somewhere
high that he seemed to climb to,
though here the boys’
vocabulary falters, but he
went up somehow and
then picked off, one by one, those
soldiers who daily
shoved his face in his ineptitude—
his plan, all along,
had been to shoot himself next,
but the guns he stole were all
so long he could not aim
at himself and pull the trigger, too.
He spent two long days
alone with the physics of this
dilemma before his parents
managed to convince him,
by phone, to turn himself in.
The car is quiet after that
until my daughter asks them,
            Why are you telling us this?
No one answers, and all the way to laser tag,
I think of the soldier,
imprisoned for life, unable to escape
the truth: the dead men,
though cruel, had been right
about him all along.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →