Francesca Bell


I’m one of those men,

he told me with a crooked

little smile, reaching gingerly

across the space between us.

Men you read about

in history books, he said,

as his right hand, the hand

with one finger gone AWOL,

vanished into the darkness

up my skirt and crept beyond

my underwear’s flimsy barrier.

It was twenty years ago. I was nineteen,

like you are now. I nodded

and pressed firmly against his touch

trying to figure

which part of him I felt—

whether it was a finger he still had

or the one he’d lost

that slipped inside me.


When I got back,

I didn’t tell anyone.

Just smoked opium in some hotel,

bought myself a fur coat.

I felt like goddamn Jim Morrison.

I felt like—he paused, shifting

to where he could reach me

better—like what I was.

A man who killed women and children,

fucking infants.

He halted there, to see that he had me

at attention—I killed with pleasure

whatever I could. I cried out

at that, but was by then

too far to pull back,

shuddered helplessly

against his maimed hand,

sure what I felt

was the part of him

gone missing.




“Severance” first appeared in River Styx.