The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Bright Stain by Francesa Bell

Getting Away

That fall, we pitched
a tent in Montana bear country
for two weeks.
Every night, whether we made love
or not, you slipped your rifle
between our bodies.
I dreamed of bear paws—awkward
as children’s hands, innocent-looking
as they swiped open my skull—
and woke, face pressed to the gun’s
steel snout, warm as our skin
by morning.
You were sober mostly that trip,
didn’t even stagger as you hoisted
our cooler up a tree to safety.
But I had already seen you
reeking and fiery enough to fracture
furniture with just your hands
or to crater the walls
with the pointed toes
of your best boots.
I had held you when booze
was a sudden blow
to your head

and you fell asleep mid-sob,
your hard body gone
flaccid in my arms.
Afternoons in Montana,
you fished downstream a ways,
while I lay naked on a flat boulder
in the middle of the river.
On all sides poured water:
a constant, diminishing caress.

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.

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