Beneath the torn-away face on the wall
a caption: Have you seen
this woman? Answers to Kore.
Or Hagne. Or The Unnamed. If so,
please contact us ASAP.
For her sake. In desperate need
of further treatment.
An odd statement given the bars
of steel clicked shut
and gleaming in my lantern light.
Did they release her and then have
an “oh my god” moment? Was there
a second abduction to mirror the first?
A lesser mystery bleeding into the greater?

I touch that pock-marked face. Feel
its pomegranate texture. Its visions
of stunted growth. A procession
of starch-coated men taking turns
in the shut-eye dark. Of bath tubs
shivering with ice-cubed water. Of sparks
to shock the spine into arching. Of seeds
aborted before the chance to ripen.
The time flows through my fingers
and coagulates on the cell floor.
A madwoman beats her skull
until it is vegetable bruised. Pulped
into raw fruit. For this
she is a madwoman. She tears off
her clothes and fingernails. Rearing,
horse-headed, all teeth, she charges
her keepers, leaving them bloodied.
They strip her down into a stack
of bones, rip away her face –
and slap it on a prickly poster.

The caption reads: Have you seen
my beloved? Flowers (now wilted)
in her hair. Answers to no name.
Reward for her return: occasional
visa to taste the sunlight again.
The lantern swings across the cell
seeking her out. Only a gathering
of red-stained vestments, scrunched up
virginally on the concrete. Some fingernails,
still tapping their SOS. And a drain-pipe
to the nether world above.

Michael Mirolla’s publications include three Bressani Prize winners: the novel Berlin (2010); the poetry collection The House on 14th Avenue (2014); and the short story collection, Lessons in Relationship Dyads (2016). The short story, “A Theory of Discontinuous Existence,” was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology; and “The Sand Flea” was a Pushcart Prize nominee. This fall, November 1 2019 through January 31 2020, Michael will serve as the writer-in-residence at the Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver where he hopes to finish a novel started in 1993. Born in Italy, raised in Montreal, Michael lives in Oakville, Ontario. For more, visit his website: http://www.michaelmirolla.com.