When Bea McConnell disappeared,
she was only eight years old,
and because of what our parents feared
the neighborhood went cold.
We saw the posters everywhere,
the broken nose, the curls.
The frightened words above her hair
said Have You Seen This Girl?
We started locking doors at night
though we never did before.
No matter the hour, we burned the light
that hung above our door.
Police put corpse-dogs on the trail
and dragged the quarry lake.
They looked in every open well
in hopes the case would break.
It never did. The posters faded.
In time, so did the search.
Her parents, pale as plaster, waited.
They often cried in church.
Like the nights I’d hear my mother weep
and open my bedroom door,
and I’d pretend I was asleep
as she slowly crossed the floor.
She’d place her hand upon my head,
her fingers light as air,
and whisper in a voice like lead
a single, shaken prayer:
“Dear God, please let my child stay.
I know that you are just.
I need him to survive the day.
Take others if you must.”