July 19, 2017

Francesca Bell

CONTAINMENT

When the man sat down next to me at Starbucks, need coming off of him like a pheromone, I was quiet, having read, more than once, God save me from the well-meaning white woman, for he was a person of color—I wasn’t sure which color, but not a fucking white person like me—and maybe I was profiling him, maybe I was an asshole and had already offended the black woman who said I could share the table but packed up her things when I sat down, leaving me to chew my dry, multigrain bagel thoroughly like the stereotype it was and read an article about wildfires in Canada and how people watched their homes burn, at a comfortable distance, on cameras linked to their phones, until the man asked quietly, from his place to my side, if I could buy him a cup of coffee, his face open the way a wound is open, soft face about the age of my soft-faced son, and it was Mother’s Day, and I couldn’t escape the bounds of my whiteness, but I worried he was hungry, my son is always hungry, so I said I’d like to buy him something to eat, too, and asked was he okay, and he said he was, but life is strange right now, and I said, yes, isn’t that the truth, and I had an appointment to get to and handed him twenty dollars from the stack in my purse and heard him order coffee and his bagel with cream cheese, and the black woman came back and sat down just as I walked out, my tears overflowing like clichés.

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness

[download audio]

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Francesca Bell: “I’ve written quite a bit about different mental illnesses, my own and others, and I try to even over-share about it. I had this experience, when my relative was very sick with his bipolar disorder and OCD, I shared about it with a woman that I knew, and she came back to me years later and thanked me. Her daughter had developed OCD, and if it hadn’t been for me, she wouldn’t have known what it was, and she wouldn’t have known what to do. So that’s another thing that we really lose when we don’t talk about it. You can save other people a lot of time and suffering, just sharing your own experience.” (website)