Instructions for After

If a python wraps its
reticulated, garish self
around my middle,
slung like bangles around God’s wrist
but cinching,
a corset
meant to disturb my heart

If it squeezes until it feels
my four chambers stutter
then shutter for good

If it receives my body, whole,
by stretching itself slowly agape
as my mother strained
to open herself
and release me

If you notice my shape
or the outline of my still-laced shoes
within the snake’s taut skin,
leave me—
tucked into that pocket of flesh,
cradled in the many-ribbed cage—
to disappear at last into the world’s
littered understory







Francesca Bell’s poems and translations appear in many journals, including B O D Y, ELLE, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle. She is the events coordinator of Marin Poetry Center and the former poetry editor of River Styx. Red Hen Press will publish her first collection, Bright Stain, in 2019.








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