View From Our First Floor Apartment

I come from the milk carton kid generation. There were many terrifying abductions of children and teens in the 80s and 90s, including a multitude in the Bay Area, where I lived. Perhaps because one of my childhood friends, Ilene Misheloff, was among the missing (her case was never solved), I grew up with a heightened sense of panic around strangers. This poem evokes, among other cases of young people taken from their own homes, the abduction and murder of Polly Klaas, which occurred four years after Ilene disappeared, and which always haunted me, even more so when I became a mother.

An unidentified noise stalks
our home, bearded as a freshly freed
convict, wavering on the cusp
of madness, in search of a childhood memory,

gasping, as if for air, or blood.
They hear it, too. I tuck them
in protective plush promises
then scuffle until morning with ghost

children, whose windows and doors
once let in more than a breeze.
There are no bodies rotting
in the woods behind our house,

I say nightly in the language
of forehead kisses and fairy smiles.
Boot soles aren’t sticky enough
to scale a brick wall,

but my children cling to me anyway,
willing us to the third floor.
When I say I’ll keep you safe,
what I mean is, I’d move tomorrow.

I want to believe our neighbors
are rearranging furniture.
That the alarm’s siren would,
like a baseball bat, shatter

an intruder’s stride. That
my children will never haunt
the graveyard of future parents’ dreams.

Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut collection published by Kelsay Books, and a chapbook, The Jolt: Twenty-One Love Poems in Homage to Adrienne Rich, published by Bottlecap Press. Her “Poem Written in the Eight Seconds I Lost Sight of My Children” was selected as a finalist for Sundress’s 2023 Best of the Net Anthology. She won Sheila-Na-Gigs, Editor’s Choice Award for her poem “Cumbre Vieja,” was named a finalist for the 2022 Saguaro Prize, and was shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite’s 2021 Microchap Series. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her recent work appears in Random Sample Review, ONE ART, Wild Roof Journal, and Ghost City Review, among others. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children. You can find her at: julieweisspoet.com.



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