seven in ten
These streets I don’t go nightly out—the pizza shop and auto parts, the Hunan Wok, the line up at the lottery—I count one thousand, two… the way I used to do when I was just a kid, the sun going down, the dark clouds rearing up like dirt bikes under searchlights after dusk. I’m sick of the statistics. The likelihood of missing. She was a mother in a Caravan, carrying the packages, planning what to cook after the kids’ soccer practice. Or she was Liked. A “happy” teen. Last seen: black tank top, jeans…. Anyone with knowledge. Anyone a witness. Anything unusual. Probably after six. I walk in tattered sweat pants and a hoodie. I walk along the rented houses huddled in taut rows along the parkway. The hobbled and the pitched, the hideous abandoned, keeping it 100. I walk along the houses roughed up near the hospital. Houses sick of always looking for what’s next, what’s around the corner. The likelihood of stitches, broken ribs. A body in a ditch, with trauma to the upper body. Skeletal remains, just south of the county. A body in a stream, on the side of the road, in the woods near the cemetery, decomposing. A body with a broken jaw, her breasts cut off, her panties the garrote. I’m sick of evidence in custody: evidence in backlog. Fibers, scrapings under fingernails. Swabs of skin. I hurry past the parking lot, where they found last month her body in a dumpster. One out of six. Nine out of ten. One every sixty-eight seconds.
Kathleen Hellen’s collection Meet Me at the Bottom is forthcoming in Fall 2022 from Main Street Rag. Her credits include The Only Country Was the Color of My Skin, her award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, her work has appeared in Barrow Street, The Carolina Quarterly, Colorado Review, Harpur Palate, jubilat, Massachusetts Review, New Letters, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus, The Sewanee Review, Subtropics, The Sycamore Review, Waxwing, and West Branch, among others.
A Song for Kathleen