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Caitlin Thomson

A Retrospective

When I read detective novels as a child, I thought missing
was a euphemism for death. This week three women in three states
were killed while jogging. Two went missing first.
My brother and I spent time each week memorizing the
artificially aged faces of people who had gone missing
as children that the paper published. We were
sure one day we would spot one in the Toys R’ Us or in
the frozen foods section of the grocery store. If the paper
published their photos they must be alive, eating
their cereal in some hidden part of the city.
Women so often go missing before they are discovered
murdered. Men seem more likely to choose to go missing.
Two of the fathers we knew had gone, not to death, but elsewhere.
A neighbor’s mother walked away from her home crying,
“I just want to disappear”. We followed her to the
end of the block and she turned around.
A student came to my desk at the collage
his step daughter missing, his paper would be two days
late. He gave me a postcard with her face on it,
“Look for her. She disappeared on Fashion’s
Night Out.” For months every subway car held her double.

The Vanished Are Sometimes Mountains

I wake, seeing the same dark boards
of ceiling I have stared at every day since fall,
at first with pride - having crafted this small shack
myself, now I look because I have no other option.
I sometimes sleep with my bag pulled up over
my head to fight the cold, and when I wake to see
its red lining I am filled for a moment with a joy
that comes from the possibility of seeing something
new, but then I recognize this rip, or that stain, and I am once
again stuck, by my own decisions, in this cabin.
If only in the fall, I had realized the true length of winter.
There is a creek to one side that sung me to sleep,
till it froze in October. There are woods that surround
me on two sides, a mountain that guards the back.
No one has seen my place here. Everything I eat
I hunted in the fat of September. The pounds of rice
I hauled in here, sweating under their weight, are long gone.
Flour is just a dream I have sometimes, an imagined
women mixes four ingredients in a small bowl and
the smell of yeast turning flour into bread, fills
the cabin. In the dream I never get to taste it,
but I still butter both sides, just in case.

Electra, Nukumanu

I knew you were missing, before I knew who you were.
One can be famous for being gone, even
if one was famous while here. The earth a planet you
flew above, the earth a place you are somewhere still.

One can be famous for being gone it turns out, even
if you were the first female to fly solo above the Atlantic.

In the absence of yourself, your legend grew,
your death has been assumed, and also denied,
you were a spy for FDR, a Tokyo Rose, a banker.

You are a part of the earth you flew above.

➥ Bio