Heather Bell

Letter to Prisoner IZ453820821

You write that you were 13 the first time
you raped a woman. I think about that:
first time. How, when I was 13, I

would sit in my backyard doing nothing but
pushing dry ground over my feet. My father gave
me my first butterfly net and that

was that: the kitchen counter tops became lined

with glass containers of butterflies. How odd

that must have seemed to the prostitutes
who came to visit my father. How they probably thought

here was the house of a crazy man,
and clutched their purse-knives closer.

My father simply ignored my obsession, cleaning around
the butterflies like they were potted plants.

I don’t know what my point is here. You shouldn’t
hurt people, Reginald, but I come from a place of
understanding, I guess. Maybe try something else:

collect insects or Disney paraphernalia. If
people are going to avoid you on the street,

I’d rather it be for a pair of Mickey Mouse ears
and not because you’re about to strangle them.

God, I miss being outside too. The dirt, you know,
that I used to push over my feet, well if he had let me,

I would have kept going. Just pushing more and more
over my skin until I was just a nose sticking up to

breathe and maybe I would have stayed there like
that forever. Maybe if we had known each other then

we both would have done that, I would have taught you,
and we never would have hurt anyone.


Heather Bell’s work has been published in Rattle, Grasslimb, Barnwood, Poets/Artists, Red Fez, Ampersand, and many others. She was nominated for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Pushcart Prize from Rattle and also won the New Letters 2009 Poetry Prize. Heather has also published four books.