Trying to Contact the Missing Girl in Our Town
by Mary Ardery
Summer nights, we took the Ouija board to the high school
football field. We spread a checkered blanket,
pulled candles from our purses,
and placed them in a vanilla-scented circle.
Four of us—eight index fingers on the planchette.
Is anyone there? is how we always began,
and the question would push sudden weight
on my bladder. It felt like waiting to be found
during Hide and Seek—your body curled
in a bureau, overheating. We were hungry
for words from the dead, hoping
to hear the smooth scrape of the planchette
like pencil on paper. Letter by letter, our eyes grew.
Our breath froze, bra wires tightening
from holding so much in. Once, a spirit
warned us she didn’t want to talk. LEAVE,
she spelled out and we were up—vanilla wax
burning our hands and staining our shirts
as we clutched the candles to our chests. No time
to pack up neatly. Even so, not one of us ran to the car.
We knew the rule: never say you’re afraid
until you are safe. Each time we missed curfew,
we learned from our parents how fear turns to fury
and spreads like wildfire. All it takes is one
abandoned candle during a summer hurting for rain.