Two Poems

by Ceridwen Hall Issue: Spring 2015


The car was probably used in a crime
and dumped in the river, my mother told
us later. It was my sister’s car—she drove
us to school most days. But the morning
we discovered the absence of the car
was a Saturday or during vacation.
We were going instead to run errands
and I was sent out to unlock the car
ahead of my mother and younger siblings.
But the car was not where we’d left it
the previous afternoon. I remembered
our pulling into the neighbor’s driveway
to turn around and park beside the curb,
which was empty now. I’d gone out
the back door and walked around the house
in order to notice this and then had to run
back across the wet grass to tell my mother,
who did not believe me at first. As a child
I never lied, but was prone to overstatement.
I gave back the keys and we all went outside
to look. The car was not there. My mother
wondered if it had rolled downhill, if we’d mistaken
where the car was supposed to be. We walked
up and down the block. Most likely, I held
my sister’s hand while my mother carried
our brother on her left hip. Their car-seats
were strapped in the missing car. Stolen,
my mother decided. She called the police
from the kitchen, called my sister (in Denver,
I think, visiting her mother.) They sent an officer
out to take a statement from us. He wanted
to know which Winnie-the-Pooh sticker rested
on each window when he learned my sister
had put them up to entertain us. I was called
from the play-set because my mother didn’t know
and I recited where each of us sat, which character
sat beside each of us. I remember speaking
to this man who’d brought his gun and car
to our driveway (but without sirens), remember
craning my neck to look up at him because
he did not crouch down the way cops do
when they speak to children on television.
He carried a clipboard and wrote in pencil.
But I no longer know what I told him (other
than that I had the front seat, which I know
because I was oldest). I was afraid of him,
but not of any particular action. Only the sense
that he loomed. I wasn’t thinking
yet in terms of symbols, social power,
but perhaps I knew already that the car
was irretrievable. He nodded and I was sent
away again. The odds were against finding
the car, the officer explained. Overnight
the thieves would already have finished
the job, dumped the evidence. My sister came
home and replaced the car in August. I began
to see how impermanent our childhood
fixtures. The car wasn’t ever found
and must have sunk, rusted. I remember
it smelling of coffee, think it belonged
first to our father and then to my sister,
and sometimes I imagine water filling
the car, peeling those stickers off
the insides of the windows. The river
was only a few miles from our house,
but the current must have taken the car
further downstream, to where it could
be dredged and scrapped.


We never know what stories to tell one another,
talk instead about our schedules, the new skylight

in the kitchen. It rains while I visit, but quietly,

the air conditioner masking the sound. You cook
scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. I read aloud

to your daughter. A spell or curse prevents us

from discussing our work here and we are careful
not to look directly at the task, which isn’t a meal

or an heirloom, but more like the castle carved

from an old box. I fear naming what might yet be
lost. This evening, I sit at your table and overlook

the woods. When I leave, we thank one another

and if there’s duty in this, it’s one we’ve chosen.
Your daughter asks when I will return, doesn’t

yet understand the idea of sisters living separate

lives. I drive home between storms, uncertain
what we have achieved. The distant lightning

reminds me of veins mapping a hand.

Ceridwen Hall is a third year MFA candidate at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and serves as assistant poetry editor at the Ninth Letter. She has work forthcoming in Booth.