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.”