Always the interminable spelling
on my inadequate palm.
One letter at a time, like a slow drip
off the eaves after a big rain,
and me, still parched, tipping my face
to the sky, wanting to holler.
If only I could learn to shape air
into something recognizable.
If only someone would whisper poems
along the insides of my arms,
a hymn sung by fingertips
across my belly, all the way
to the peak of each breast,
my body’s rafters reverberating.
Then, a suspenseful little story
unfolding up and down my thighs,
finally, a cacophony,
both lyrical and guttural:
let my little cave echo, trill, open
like a throat to answer. O, fill my body—
this clumsy, mute organ—with song.
In honor of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, this selection comes from the poetry collection, Bright Stain, available from Red Hen Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.
Francesca Bell’s poems appear in many magazines, including ELLE, New Ohio Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, River Styx, and Rattle. Her translations from Arabic and German appear in Arc, B O D Y, Circumference,Mid-American Review, and The Massachusetts Review. She is the co-translator of Palestinian poet Shatha Abu Hnaish’s collection, A Love That Hovers Like a Bedeviling Mosquito (Dar Fadaat, 2017), and the author of Bright Stain (Red Hen Press, 2019). She lives with her family in Northern California.
As a writer, Nilsa explores gender and diversity issues (including child neglect, domestic violence, homelessness, and sexual abuse). Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, The Selkie, and several other literary journals. It’s also been featured at Miami Book Fair’s LipService True Stories out Loud Miami, the Writing Class Radio podcast, and at the “Muses and Music” a multidisciplinary event of the Cream Literary Alliance. Nilsa is also the Editor of The Wardrobe and Doubleback Review. Nilsa can be found reading or at the beach.