Just Like All the Girls

Read by the author.

by Francesca Bell

Featured Art: “The Sea of Memory and Forgetfulness” by Madara Mason

I always knew

a man waited for me somewhere
with hands that fit the particular curves
of my treacherous body.

Whether I watched for him or not.
Whether I believed.

Sometimes, in dreams, he entered me from above,
like a coffin lowered slowly into a grave.

Sometimes he held me hard from behind.

The hills scorched golden each summer.
My hair was streaked the color of dried-dead grass.

People said I was lucky to have it.

Every year, moths fluttered
against the trees’ dark trunks as I passed,
like scraps of parchment.

An infestation that maybe would, maybe would not, kill the oaks.

I dared myself to wonder
around which bend
would he find me.

Wherever I looked were signs.

The steep ridge, a gray fox hunting
at the slough’s edge, V of geese going over.

World of enchantment,
and I wandered precarious,

my steps disturbing the air,
their small sound like beads
counting out prayers.

Trip-trap, my feet carried me along.

Almost to where he stood.
Expected. Unexpected.

Waiting that day in shadow,
white towel obscuring his face
like a veil.

His satchel was slung, open, over one shoulder.
It was yellow, the color of caution.

Every girl, I thought, has a man like that.

Pacing her ledges with his bag of tricks.
Readying himself
for her arrival.

His hands were sheathed
in royal blue Latex.

Like a doctor prepared for a procedure.

By the time I saw him,
he was so familiar
I almost forgot to run.

Francesca Bell is a poet and translator. Her work appears in North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and Tar River Poetry. 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 the poetry collection Bright Stain (Red Hen Press, 2019). She lives in Novato, California.

One thought on “Just Like All the Girls

  1. Oh God! I’m always grateful for NOR, but when you drop in for a surprise visit, and — like any good guest, bring a gift to celebrate– and I open it, and it’s this, this wondrous memory of the girl who still lives within you, and I’m so grateful you stopped by, and next time you’re here, take a peek at the fridge, because your present is going up there right now, next to the recipe for mama’s meat loaf. Jim


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