“Small Parts” by Francesca Bell

Francesca Bell


After the plumbers leave, having installed
new toilets because the old ones failed
to whisk fully away what our bodies discarded,
and we are of an age where we crave
the satisfaction of good and final riddance,
of never seeing again what we have chosen
to set down, the ultimate, sweet pleasure
of divestment, and after they have accidentally
allowed my old beagle to escape, and I walk
up and down the streets calling and whistling
and return to find her waiting at the front door,
triumphant, a long-dead bird’s leg bones gripped
in her mouth, talons still attached,
I read in the paper that a foot was found on a beach
in Richmond, still laced into its Saucony shoe,
and the article asks breezily for the public’s assistance,
as if someone has unwittingly lost a right foot,
size 6 or 7, perhaps while out running,
before going on to clarify that every couple
of months, small parts of people wash up
on Bay Area beaches, mostly fingers or feet broken
loose at the water’s slow insistence
from the bodies of suicides who’ve tossed themselves
whole from one bridge or another, dropping
as that bird must have, finished finally
with the entire enterprise, believing the Bay
to be as powerful as a new toilet, able to afford
a person the simple luxury of washing away
the whole stinking, burdensome mess,
but something keeps keeping us,
a scavenging dog, a tide, a faulty toilet,
even the Bay unable to stop our little bits,
our wasted, torn-apart pieces
from clinging to shore in refusal.

from Poets Respond
December 6, 2022


Francesca Bell: “The day I read about the running shoe that washed up on a Richmond beach still holding its foot, I really was having my toilets replaced, and my beagle really did escape out the propped-open front door, and she really was waiting for me, after my fruitless search for her, carrying someone else’s leg bones in her mouth. All of it got me thinking about how difficult it is to ever be completely finished with or free of anything. We humans cling to pretty much everything, it’s true, but this world is sticky in its own way and seems also to not want to let us go.” (web)

Rattle Logo