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By Brenda Hillman

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)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living
  • Nature

Poet Bio

Brenda Hillman
Brenda Hillman was born in Tucson, Arizona, and attended Pomona College, where she received a bachelor’s degree, followed by the University of Iowa, where she earned an MFA. She has been a member of the faculty at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, since 1984. She once told Contemporary Authors: "I am interested in the presence of spirit in matter and in how to have joy in a divided universe—that's what my poetry is mainly about. My tools are irony, the image, the broken narrative, and an intensely personal voice."

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