All the Missing Girls

by Christine Butterworth-McDermott —

Every time I read a novel about a missing girl,
I think of you, though as far as I know

you might still be living. But whenever
there’s a blonde who disappears

from the mall or the fairgrounds or a beach,
I think of your long hair, and blue eyes,

your pinched sensitive face and I wonder
what happened when your family moved

From our sleepy, hollow, town. I used to spend
nights at your house when I was ten,

your butter-colored hair falling slick
and comforting over my face—and I could

imagine what it was to have a sister,
someone whose hairs were woven

into your very being. My own died
in infancy so, of course that is why

I read these books—for her, for you—
the protagonist’s longing for answers

to what happens after the head ducks
into the car, or the casket lid comes

down, or a small still body goes up
in flame, that’s the kind of quest

I understand. So, dear friend
in the ether, I let you know now

I’ll always remember how you stood,
one elbow akimbo, skinny hips at a tilt

and that you exist, bright head
in the limbo of every turning page.

Christine Butterworth-McDermott’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron, The Normal School, River Styx, and Southeast Review, among others. She is the author of Tales on Tales: Sestinas (2010) and Woods & Water, Wolves & Women (2012) and is the founder and co-editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. A chapbook All Breathing Heartbreak (Dancing Girl Press) and her next full-length collection, Evelyn As (Fomite) will both be published in 2019.