Francesca Bell

Letter to the Man Who Said I Stayed on His Brain Like a Hit of Acid That Wouldn’t Kick In

I thought of you this morning, our six years of letters,

and the time you kissed me in the Saturday schoolyard.

How we swung from side to side. Together, away.

It was October then, like it is every year, like it is now,

and that kiss tastes like green apples and leaves flaming

in the gathering dark. Days like today, I swear I hear

the small complaint the chains made when we moved apart.


Every morning, I do my five miles, running up over the ridge

and down around the slough. Once, a coyote followed

almost all the way, and I thought of you.


At Whole Foods this noon, the apples were so perfectly green,

my cart so full. I wish I could tell you I am still the person

you thought you knew. Still the girl who likes things broken,

who lives her life along a bright and growing fissure,

who dances best with a man whose limp keeps time.


Six years of letters, and I barely ever saw your face,

but I remember your eyes, October blue,

and the small sigh it was to wait for you.


On LinkedIn, I see you soldiered some again,

and I imagine you running in the Iraq desert dusk.

When we were young, you sent a tiny, Korean flower

from your base, pressed between two slips of paper you left blank.

I dreamt you lost your hands in war then cried

trying to lift a black veil from my face.


More than twenty years now. No more letters come.


Dear Paul, who wrote of bones and broken bottles,

I often wake in night’s harrowed middle

and think how what you wished for me is real.

Sweet woman, you wrote, stay hungry. I am hungry.

Famished. So barren, I swell, fecund with ruin,

vacancy overflowing me as if I have no bounds.


After dinner, I push my last, late child on the swings

out back. My hands empty, then fill again with her

as the chains whine the long line of falling.




“Letter to the Man Who Said I Stayed on His Brain Like a Hit of Acid That Wouldn’t Kick In” first appeared in B O D Y.