Girl Sleuth

By Brenda Hillman b. 1951 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 Brenda Hillman b. 1951


Subjects Living, Youth, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

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 Brenda  Hillman


One of contemporary poetry’s most eclectic and formally innovative writers, Brenda Hillman is known for poems that draw on elements of found texts and document, personal meditation, observation, and literary theory. Often described as “sensuous” and “luminescent,” Hillman’s poetry investigates and pushes at the possibilities of form and voice, while remaining grounded in topics such as geology, the environment, politics, family, . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Youth, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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