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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)

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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." See More By This Poet

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