THE SEARCH FOR MIRANDA
Deep in the forests of America,
violence stains trees, browns capillaries
on leaves. Rain stirs it into beads, pearls
which tumble down chlorophyll gullies;
sometimes it hangs in fetid strands,
trembles like a cutworm, its agate skin
dappled with dark bruises.
In Iowa today, the evidence we seek
seems more pearl than worm, baby teeth
deceptively small, lost, crushed under fieldstone
a false promise of resolution. They rest somewhere
in arching snow drifts, down virgin ravines,
near the melting defilement of sewer pipes.
Somewhere among the spearhead branches,
the hawk-nosed molester shouldered
his potato sack; that was two days ago,
well before our flashlights bobbed through.
We know now the name of the man who ducked
into a snowstorm near Grinnell, planting
his boot on a shovel blade to lay fresh
a four foot grave. We know now
how the zealous sheriff, five hours
too soon, looked into the back seat
of his cruiser to plead with the suspect
for compassion, saying in a ponderous drawl:
"Listen, for Christ's sake, they're entitled
to a Christian burial for that little girl."
We know now, wishing otherwise,
how the predator's pupils scrolled to the side,
his ruddy beak pressed against the squad car window.
We know now how he thought of a child's shoes,
fat and new, laced tight, soaking in a gas station toilet.
How he remembered a disintegrated sack of clothes
scattered among rest area trash, and silently thanked
the humping teens whose cries had masked the sound
of digging. How he considered the sheriff's plea
and spoke of seventeen baby teeth arranged
in a fairy ring near Mitchville, down a gravel road,
beside a culvert.
There a child's string of years
broke; there we found her mouth's pearls,
rolled them between disbelieving fingers,
shaking as we dug. Shaking because we knew
the sheriff's error what kind of justice is it
that forbids our naming the man
who led us here?