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Paula Bohince


When a girl is raped, and left

crumpled in a tree stand

wearing only a muzzle

of ice, mermaid hair frozen

in weird angles,

we, in Johnstown, start talking.

Say how after the great flood,

casualties were found as far

as the Ohio,

people in trees, in chimneys,

so that the governor ordered

all water between

be dragged, putting to bed

many cold cases.

We visit the small museum

we drive past most days,

pay two dollars to watch

a newsreel, relearn how

experts knew it was coming,

buy tee-shirts with a picture

of bodies caught in a sprawl.

We go home and cut her out,

mail the grain of her eyelids,

wet ink of her hair,

to relatives who’ve left.

Here in Johnstown, we drift

between the missing and dead.

Paula Bohince holds an MFA from New York University. She teaches at the City University of New York and New York University.

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