Empty

Those broken winter midnights, the baby’s wailing having woken me,
her stutter-stopping cries made a song we rocked to, nursing.

She was always sick then, her ear’s tiny drum bursting bloody
on the pillow, her breath ragged as a ripped seam against my areola.

She labored all night like a woman who tries to bring the terrible miracle
forth. My breasts are grown useless now, but still I haul them around

as I carried that girl on my hip well past when she could walk,
a weight that shifted my bones out of place. These nights,

spine still off-kilter, my body does not settle. Her mind
now is murky, my grown girl, like sediment stirred up.

I hear her in the dark hurling objects into her piled-high pillows,
crying, and I lie, O, I lie with nothing left to offer her.

 

My Daughter Was Always the Resourceful One

In the days of her death wish,
my eyes were fixed, open

my life
a watchtower
I couldn’t stop
looking down from.

She couldn’t be
trusted even to sleep
separately then

though we’d locked up
so many things:

belts that seemed
innocent
before her

the well-meaning medicines
electrical cords
in their tyranny of tangles

her scarves/my scarves

the noose we found
when we searched
her closet

two deluxe Swiss Army knives

a handful of bare blades
she’d extracted
from her plastic razors

all our shoelaces
in a messy, little pile

dental floss, reeking of mint

keys to all four cars

and every pair of scissors
in the house
no matter how small.

I lay beside her
in the dark
to watch, weeping,

while she kept on
breathing
against her will.

I worked so hard
to give her life.

She worked so hard
to hand it back.

 

Volume  11.2 - December 2018

FRANCESCA BELL’S poems and translations appear in B O D Y, ELLE, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, andRattle.She is the board chair of Marin Poetry Center and the former poetry editor of River Styx. Red Hen Press will publish her first collection, Bright Stain, in 2019.