"Are you Popular?” (1947) 

by ERIKA MEITNER

 

The missing woman’s body—a girl, really—
            she was 22—yoo hoo—her body

sat in the Salinas Walmart Parking lot
            in her Volkswagen Jetta for months

before anyone noticed. Even the store
            security camera turned a blind eye

to the unmoving car. What makes
            anyone seen? Something to do with

the lunchroom? Something to do with parking
            in cars with boys at night? Each tray

holds a small carton of milk, diamond-shaped
            mouth torn open. Popularity—what substance?

What circle? Black holes. Torn mouths. Space itself
            responds to the presence of matter by curving—

by expanding or contracting. A needle. A note.
            Her body in that car. She’s a swell kid.

Did you know her? I wish I did. She always
            looked nice. She dated all the boys so they felt

less important. Why do we care how they felt?
            Because they enact violence. They fill holes.

The vehicle had tinted windows, a sunshade,
            didn’t appear out of the ordinary. None of the

employees noticed though it sat unmoving
            for months—like a ringing black phone

beside a chair and the boys calling, calling.
            Something to do with lending a hand or

the world of events, and thanks a lot just the same.
            Black holes are an exit door from the universe

through which anything that passes can never
            return. Where does she fit in all this? A needle. A note.

She thinks she’s a very last resort. Do you have
            your key, dear? There’s some milk in the icebox
.

She puts on her mittens. He says, I’ll take good care of her,
            to reassure them. The sound of two black holes

colliding a billion light years away: water
            into a pool of more water, darkness, wet caves

of their mouths? Those who park in cars are not
            really popular. Not even with the boys they park with.

Not when they meet at school or elsewhere.
            Not when space itself responds to the presence

of matter in no discernible way.