"Are you Popular?” (1947)
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.