“The Girl” by Lance Larsen

Lance Larsen


The girl has been missing five days. 
Also her boyfriend. She’s fifteen, 
red blonde hair, friend of my daughter. 
We’re taping a flyer to every door—
who wouldn’t? The girl’s pink backpack 
with skulls has entered my house, 
her two hands and a pencil ready to cram 
for Chemistry. We are covering a part 
of town too good for us—Yale Way, 
Harvard Circle, Stanford Lane …  
My daughter tapes the south side 
of the street while I tape the north, 
for speed she says, then she wanders 
to my side, speed not a god she wants 
to worship all alone. Our four 
taping hands much happier. The girl 
has been missing five days. Her tennis 
shoes scribbled with anime faces 
have entered my house. There are ants 
that know where she is and lint between 
her toes, maybe tampons and old 
taco wrappers and a green water bottle. 
And with each flyer, we are helping 
to drag the reservoir and comb 
the woods and wander a mystery street 
in Mexico, stuffing $20 in her right 
pocket, $40 in her left. We cross a river 
and my daughter throws in a stick. 
Gone in a swirl. The girl has been 
missing five days. We are helping 
her escape a man made of barbed 
wire and the beds he wet as a child 
and the cats he burned with cigarettes. 
We are with her cold body, patting 
her hand, helping her toes study 
the temperature of dirt. Meanwhile, 
I’m studying shades of fear, light yellow 
masquerading as daffodils, the shaggy 
browns of a dog barking us off 
a porch. The girl, missing five days, 
is not thinking of pi or personification 
or E=mc2 or resilient Rosa Park. 
The girl’s freckles have entered 
my house, the part in her hair. 
And just last week her arms balancing 
two pizzas—her chewing mouth, 
my daughter’s chewing mouth. It feels wrong 
for the girl to go missing so close 
to Easter. My daughter asks if I am ready 
for a break. We cross the street 
to sit in little-kid swings in the park. 
We want this to last, the saving 
of the missing girl, her collarbone 
and ankles, her henna tattoo, birthmark 
over her left eye, on a morning, blue 
with waiting, we may never see again. 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022


Lance Larsen: “When my daughter’s high school friend went missing, I found myself in deep denial: how could she be gone, she was just in my house? I wrote this poem to explore the magical thinking that filled those days of waiting. If I rehearsed certain details (street names, colors, freckles, etc.), maybe she would come back. Of course, I was also trying to cast a spell on my own daughter and keep her safe forever. I consider this a poem of prayer, a poem of preparatory mourning, even if Deity is never invoked directly.”

Rattle Logo