Francesca Bell, the author of this week’s poem of the week, has had three poems nominated for the Pushcart Prize. “You Can Call Me Ma’am,” from Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict will be her fourth nomination.
YOU CAN CALL ME MA’AM
By Francesca Bell
Having turned forty-two, having menstruated
lo these thirty years, most often
on my hands and knees or curled, drugged
and sobbing, around the hot water bottle.
Having borne three children and been stretch-marked
and bloated beyond recognition. Having pushed
those babies from my womb as each skull crowned
like live coals against my perineum
and lodged for good measure up my ass.
Having bled and sweated and nursed,
breasts rock hard, nipples like paper
doused in lighter fluid and each child’s mouth
a struck match. Having pled and dragged
three children to inoculations and speech therapists,
to grocery stores and Jiffy Lube and my gynecologist’s office,
to one hundred and eighty school drop-offs,
and three hundred sixty-five whining, shrieking
bedtimes every year. Having brushed, my God,
so many reluctant teeth and forced the good,
green vegetables down and been pissed, shit,
and retched on until now, all are
more or less righted and headed willingly
where they ought to be going.
Having, as I said, turned forty-two,
I don’t want you calling me Miss,
or acid-washing even one line from my face,
or lopping off the part of my belly
my children made soft. I don’t want you lifting
the breasts they pulled down while
they took my good milk or repairing
the scar on my nipple where one
bit down and left a searing infection, a wound
that puckered like a mouth and oozed into my bra
while I nursed through it. I don’t even want you
rinsing the new silver from my hair. I like its steel.
I am as sharp as a thistle now
no deer can lop into a nub.
Let me tell you, at forty-two, it is a deep,
delicious pleasure not to be dewy
or fresh as a fucking daisy.