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Thương Anh


I was
You were
He, she, it was

Wait a minute

Why shouldn’t you
also be followed by was?

If I were you
I’d say “was”

But I wasn’t you
I never was
nor will I ever be

In class we chuckled
when we recited “He, she-it is”

and the masculine came first
except when going through a door

Then the word she
went through a door

and into a new world

You wasn’t there

You were “he”
and it kept being “it”

but don’t blame “it”

“It” doesn’t even know it’s there

Ron Padgett

Another Thing That Annoys Me

The spelling of 40. We have four and fourteen, and then, for no reason I know of, the u is dropped and we’re left with forty, not to mention the schizophrenic forty-four. Most annoying, as Sei Shōnagon would say.

Ron Padgett

Love in the Time of Covid-19

for my husband, twenty-one years my senior

There are so many times
I could have killed you.

After twenty-eight years of marriage—
the only contact sport I’ve ever stuck wit—

I found myself

crying this morning,
after a trip outside,
singing Happy Birthday

three times through,

just to be sure,

scrubbing despite
the sting of my split skin

as I’ve loved you through
even the rub
of the raw years.

I held my hands steady
in the water’s reassuring scald,

trying and trying
to save you.

Francesca Bell


I required, finally, a boy with twelve years
of piano lessons singing in his hands,
and the girlfriend before me who taught him
to play scales up and down her body.
He reached casually between my legs,
without needing to look,

to place one practiced finger on my clitoris
and press as if freeing a clear note from his piano.
My body did the rest, bucking against him,
then arching with an involuntary, jubilant moan.
I lay after, amazed and chagrined to think of pleasure,
a spring coiled all that time in my body.

Francesca Bell


Once, I was a whole person.
I agreed to be transformed,
through trauma, into pieces.
I laid myself cheerfully down
before the apocalypse.
After, the doctor placed the baby
among my body’s wreckage.
I learned to call this love.

Francesca Bell

Instrument Left in Its Case

My life sucks, but my wife won’t,
he said, rolling onto his back
on my massage table.

He laughed, a painful choke,
as his penis slowly rose,
quiet question tenting
the flannel sheet.

I think he wanted—
not to be blown,
but played,

trapped song
coaxed from him
by careful embouchure
and another’s breath.

I heard the faint thrum
of his loneliness
all the way home.

Francesca Bell


Every two minutes, an American woman is raped,
her body forced open in the time it takes me to tear
this organic tomato to its pulpy center and bite in,
letting juice run down my chin, stinging.

This tomato a celebration on my tongue reminding me
of the night we spent six hundred dollars on dinner for two,
as that man in Colorado loaded guns into his car.

Food arrived on silk pillows: tiny, purple carrots,
radishes like marbles-fairy vegetables-and a miniature,
individual loaf of bread for each course, and each course
with its own silverware and army of people washing in the back.

As we clinked our glasses together,
he checked his ammunition and gas mask,
and people wondered, popcorn or candy.

This morning, I ran through a forest kept tidy
by rich people like me, Eminem shuffling smoothly
through my iPhone. Somewhere in China,
a young man folded his ruined hands in his lap.

My palms were raised, open.
I imagined texting prayers straight to Heaven: OMG. OMG.
Thank You for this world of green grass and suffering.

Francesca Bell

Never Die

Icons, stepping on pythons
Spitting that cayenne,
Eat ya like Zion,
Peaking at the skyline
Reaching for the stars like
I’m reaching for the pylon
I sent ya on the sideline
We need to walk a fine line
We need to read the guidelines
Instead of reading the timelines
Where everybody like lying
Nobody flow like mine
I’m sonning these niggas
Got me coaching niggas like Prime
Tongue, I never bite mine
Got dough like Taekwon
To spend all this money
I’ma have to spend a lifetime
You broke, can’t even buy time
Should throw niggas a lifeline
You know money’s on my mind
And I be on your wife’s mind
I hit her with the pipe bomb
Then pass her down the pipeline
But actually, we quite fine
Diamonds on me sparkling
And splashing like some white wine
They love me in the night time
They hate me when the light shine
Shots, I got a hundred
And problems, I got 99
Bugatti Veyron
Take off with no flight time
Bad bitch on the passenger side
She don’t even like flying
Booty soft as nylon
You niggas small as micron
I got a Black Nina
That get nasty as a white blonde
Low credit, high crime
Open mind, tight rhymes
When they hear my lines
These rappers gotta catch up like Heinz
Weezy and my slime
Nas, ain’t nobody like ours
Like bygones
Gotta let icons be icons, hi moms.

Lil Wayne (A guest verse from “Never Die” by Nas)

Box Pantoum

Can’t you dream out of the box?
Marbles rattling in your brain
Your mother was in pain
She said no when she meant yes

Marbles rattling in your brain
You will never amount to anything
She said no when she meant yes
Sickness, death, and despair

You will never amount to anything
Your mother was in pain
Sickness, death, and despair
Can’t you dream out of the box?