missing boys voice heard in forest

missing boys voice heard in forest


the whole holler spreads itself out like a blanket, a crawling

fire-line of anxious ants, moving into what might as well be

a universe of green, swaying over their heads, moving

to the nighttime music of leave-rustling and branch creaking that could muffle

even the loudest where are you or the most anguished yell

if you can hear us


a boy has gone missing, wandered inexplicably from a campfire and been snatched up

by the tree limbs, carried into the black of a forest that swells into an impossible horizon

we could hear him, the mother says, for hours we could hear him, but we couldn’t

see him


the local news will report that others will hear the voice as well

over the sound of tree-sways and dog barks, between the crossing beams

of a million searching flashlights, many will hear it and go looking


the ones who heard him—swear that they did–recalled

his voice was so close, like he was calling and calling

from a place just out of sight or, somehow, up in the sky

to some, he had screamed, to others, it was laughter

they heard through the branches. and for others

the voice they heard was high and sweetly distant, held up

somewhere in the trees, as if

he is singing


years later, children will come to that spot

where a boy wandered off and never got found, the spot

where dirt paths reluctantly give way to a million tangled miles of Appalachian green

they will hear his voice—a distant, clear plea

and they will go into the woods to find him



-T. Cole Rachel


photo by Rhi Ellis
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