Bright Stain


“Francesca Bell’s poems are fierce and tender, passionate, compassionate, disturbing and delightful. Wide-ranging, finely-honed, smart and surprising, Bright Stain is a compelling debut collection!” —Ellen Bass
“How deeply gratifying to see Francesca Bell’s electric, erotic, and completely ravishing debut collection, Bright Stain, at last in the world. For the past ten years she has been writing some of the most charged, subtle, and yet devastating poems in American poetry. Many of these dramatic vignettes are laced with a rare sexual candor and a whip-smart emotional intelligence. Bright Stain is one of the most darkly elegant and luminous books of recent years; it is, in all ways, truly a wonder.” —David St. John

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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.