People disappear. Up Glastenbury
and down the mountainside, through
Somerset township and Bennington.
Paula Jean Welden, 18, vanished on
December 1, 1946. She was last seen
on the Long Trail just before dark.
In this story she is Natalie, fresh-faced
and virginal, feet in the dewy grass.
Another daughter abjected. She makes
a mark in her notebook, smokes
a final cigarette. Last breath of summer
over the hills. In the evening, the children’s
voices carry. First to Powers for red beans,
canned soup, milk, then home with the heavy
groceries. Stanley needs his ink refilled.
She remembers him in the kitchen,
in the early days of their courtship, catching
her in his arms: It’s because we’re Jews.
She does not know what to believe. Instead
she sets her hexes: nettles under the bed
for fertility, books nailed to trees, spells
for his little infidelities: a dropped key,
a hair ribbon, a lipstick stain on a collar.
Carelessness. A year inside with the curtains
closed. And the villagers standing around
like extras before the rain, waiting for the sky
to open. Arms raised as if for a stoning.
It does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story
is what all you young people think about
these days. Why don’t you write something
to cheer people up? Throw the windows open,
one by one. Turn the dirt from the graves.
There are more people dead than living
here on earth. What ghost here, what god,
what girl dancing in an empty room.