Francesca Bell

I Leave My Window Open Now to Hear Them

Nights, barn owls call from my back hill—
their cries shrill as hunger stripped bare—
and I think of him, onion farmer
from east of the mountains, his broad,
exhausted body on my massage table,
the owl he told me screamed
all winter from his barn’s rafters.
He said the sound made the cold
colder as he picked his way
from field to barn to house.
After I touched all the places
I was licensed to—bunched,
tender shoulders that crept
toward his ears; beat-up hands,
leathery as a dog’s paw pads;
each buttock’s tight, lonely
hillock that gently gave
beneath my forearm’s strokes—
he sat up and asked
if I’d have sex with him.
He promised not to hurt me,
to buy me dinner after.
He said it plain, did not look
away, but I was twenty
and knew nothing of desolation,
or owls, or wintering-over onions,
their farmers pacing ugly acres
as layer upon layer of stinging,
weeping sweetness forms
beneath the frozen-solid ground.


Artwork on this page:
Detail of Hands on the ground
10 x 8" oil on clayboard
Irene Hardwicke Olivieri

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