A brenda is missing—where is she?

Summon the seeds & weeds, the desert whooshes. Phone the finch

with the crowded beak;   a little pretenda

                is learning to read

in the afternoon near the cactus caves. Near oleander & pulpy

caves with the click-click of the wren & the shkrrrr of the thrasher,

               a skinny pretenda is learning

to read till the missing brenda

               is found. Drip of syllables like olives near the saguaro.

Nancy Drew will find the secret in raincoats & wednesdays

              & sticks. Nancy whose spine is yellow

              or blue will find the brenda in 1962,

Nancy                   who has no mother,

              who takes suggestions from her father & ignores them.


Gleam goes the wren ignoring the thorn. They cannot tell the difference.

Click of the smart dog’s nails on linoleum.

                                 Nancy bends over the clues,

of brenda’s locket & dress. Word by word

               between syllables a clue. Where has the summer gone, the autumn—

are they missing too? Maybe Nancy

                will parse the secret & read the book report on Nancy Drew:

“neat pretty sly cute.” Syllable by syllable
                & still no brenda!   Nancy
puts her hand to her forehead; is the missing
girl in the iron bird? is the clue to the girl in the locket?

  • Brenda Hillman, “Girl Sleuth” from Practical Waters. Copyright © 2009 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

  • Source: Practical Waters (Wesleyan University Press, 2009)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I do Poetry Out Loud because the everyday me is very shy and easily stumbles over words, mangling meaning and botching simple conversations. Yet, when I recite poetry it is an opportunity for me to become someone else––an embodiment of the poem. Slowly, step by step, I think Poetry Out Loud is helping me to become a braver, more confident person, even if I still tremble when I get on stage."
Rose Horowitz
2016 ME POL Champion