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.

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