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.