Patron Saint of Girls
(Ann Marie Burr, 8, missing since August 31, 1961, from Tacoma, Washington)
Pray for this lightning-bright night
to never end. For the rain to always scatter
droplets over those streets, blackened like the pelt
of an animal. Pray for the girls inside
the small house to sleep through the darkness,
close their eyes against dreams and the barking
dogs. Only blind men would circle
around lambs like these whose bodies, shorn
and bared beneath ivory counterpanes,
don’t yet know the way women are held
together like a bundle of wood before they are lit
on fire or how to soak up each other’s blood
with white cloths. Pray for them not to cross
over the meridian of the window frame. Keep them
inside their beds with chins tucked over hands
unmarked by passage. Keep them from leaving
everything behind in those rooms,
including a single red thread caught on a sliver.
Patron Saint Against Wounds
(Rita Jolly, 17, missing since June 29, 1973, from West Linn, Oregon)
Pray that on this evenfall, bees will fly thick
from her mouth. That the honeyed sweetness
of breath moving past her lips is the only wound
the closing of the day needs to muster past.
On this evening as she soldiers
by sidewalks filled with cracks
and dark thistles prickling the edges
of lawns, pray that men will know hearts
are living things, that injuries
can heal if they are cared for. Pray
that the droning vibrations that echo
through the inky shadows are simply
those bees that have gathered too close
to the ivory roses whose stems can be shaped
into crowns. Pray this is the only sound as she falters
along the roadway, her body moving toward sunset,
and that the livid bruise of darkness looming
behind her is not what we imagine.
Patron Saint of Seamstresses
(Vicki Lynn Hollar, 24, missing since August 20, 1973, from Eugene, Oregon)
Pray that she is the kind of woman who knows
how to pull a thread through, stitch
a hem closed with straight lines, and cut
an end loose without shifting, so you can offer
your own thimbleful of blood
to place at the feet of our maternal
heroine, the only one who will know
if the dark man watches her as he does her blood
sisters. Know that you offer for her a relic,
a way to carry her through the passageway
to the dusky vein of a car lot. Pray
that her pink-blushed dress stays neat
and clean. That the latch on her car door
always bolts tight against wanderers. That the ivory dawn
awakens her every morning until she is a grandmother.
And know that your prayers will not be enough
for her to overstep this moment, so that she can darn
this evening closed with her sleep.
Patron Saint of Captives
(Donna Gail Manson, 19, missing since March 12, 1974, from Olympia, Washington)
Pray the wolf who sleeps in a bed of woven vine
twigs does not rise from his winter hibernal,
that if he wakes, thrashing toward her in the timber-dark,
hex marks are enough to keep him from her
scent. Pray that she will shiver
in the breeze of his passing, that she will feel
his hunting breath through her heart’s arteries.
But first, let her enjoy the music of that night, playing
through her ivory skin, transmuting her existence
from a tawny-haired girl into electric current,
ions traveling along arcs as sharp as the moon.
Offer for her pieces of your body
that no quicklime can corrupt. Give to her
words that feel like a knife in her mouth,
a tongue that can set those night hemlocks on fire.
Pray that she will see the summer’s first luna
moth light on her window, its legs hooked hard
as a switch in the screen, its scales shining bright as bone.
Patron Saint of Betrayed Victims
(Georgann Hawkins, 18, missing since June 11, 1974, from Seattle, Washington)
Pray that when she screams in that alley
those who hear her voice will not settle
deeper into their own sleep. When she walks
past rhododendrons dark as wildfire, heads
heavier than their stems can hold, pray
she will not take the bait of a man
holding a briefcase. This neophyte
does not know the Spanish word for betrayer
or the way the acrid sent of his hands
can be conjugated into welts. Instead, let her make chains
of asters to crown her head, wrap around
the long brown hair he always yearns to touch.
Pray that he will not stifle the wilderness
that rests beneath her breastbone, the ivory
halo that should never be hardened.
But you must know to also bless those whose hearts
will become bitter without her nimble hands touching
their own. Bless those bitter, bitter hearts.
Patron Saint of Orchards
(Nancy Wilcox, 17, missing since October 2, 1974, from Holladay, Utah)
Pray that the orchard stripped bare of fruit
does not cloak her body in its hollows,
that her limbs are not rooted in its undergrove.
Stay her from his cunning tongue,
the one that would hiss along her ivory neck,
and sheathe itself in the sockets of her limbs.
Let her rise from the ground, leaves collected
in her long russet hair, the musk
of fermented fruit nestled against her skin.
Have her collect her clothes from the altars
beneath the trees and bless the passing
insects as she orients herself in the gloaming.
Pray that the marrow does not leech
from her bones or that her pelvic
arch does not settle into dirt so many miles
from home. Pray that she does not feel his hands
settling along the curve of her neck
or the radial beats of her body fluttering silent.
Patron Saint of Never Failing Hope
(Debra Kent, 17, missing since November 8, 1974, from Bountiful, Utah)
Pray there is enough starlight to ignite
the darkness and turn luminous strands
of her hair as she walks to her car. Pray
there is enough light shimmering on the surface
of the parking lot that he is kept at bay,
not pure enough to enter the space where galaxies
take shape. Pray that our stargazer
will always take this worn stage, stretch
her limbs across windblown distances on the way
to somewhere other than here. Bless her
every time she becomes someone else, places a mask
over her face, but pray she does not learn this from him.
Know that on this night there is another girl locked
into his handcuffs, bruises mottling her wrists.
She, the parallel to ours. Pray there is enough
in this world for them both to greet a new morning,
enough for both of them to turn off the porch lights,
leaving nothing to gather insects in ivory cups.
Patron Saint of Travelers in the Mountains
(Julie Cunningham, 26, missing since March 15, 1975, from Vail, Colorado)
Pray that the snow will become blinding
enough to hide her from view as she darts
from the tavern on her way home.
Let the wind savage her small frame and gather damp
ivory flakes into the crook of her neck. Let it pitch
her body into a strand of moss-dark trees.
Anything, pray for anything to keep her
from the man on crutches, his lips cocked
in an apologetic smile. Pray the wind takes her
and spits her out on the other side of the mountains,
far from his cuffs and hands and the shovels
he uses to bury them in the night-swollen ground.
But if he finds her, give her prayers that will offer hope.
Pray that she will turn into something feral,
something that will survive the dropping mercury
and the lame man who would scarab her skin with heated breath.
Let her peel the flesh from his bones. Let her be the one
to bury him in the ground again and again.
Patron Saint Against Sudden Death
(Denise Lynn Oliverson, 24, missing since April 6, 1975, from Grand Junction, Colorado)
Pray that the wheels of her bicycle will always turn
over, and the locust-clicking of the chain
will continue propelling her out over city streets.
Pray that she hears the train as she passes,
its steel core thrumming over the trestle, and the viaduct
below full only of her body and the flashing
yellow of her bike. Let the ivory rims quarter
the dampness of the underpass with scattered
light. Pray that he does not come to hold her hand
or cannon his ragged exclamations
into her long, brown hair. If he tries to take
her, pray that she becomes a pillar of stone,
her bones too heavy to move, her wounds
silver veins of magnetite. But, don’t pray for her
to be locked safe in a tower, her body fed
with nectar and her skin scented with oils. Don’t pray
for her hair to grow long enough to climb, or for a man
to pursue her as she flees. Pray instead for revolution.
Patron Saint of Drowning Victims
(Lynette Culver, 12, missing since May 6, 1975, from Pocatello, Idaho)
Pray that when the water comes for her, she reaches
past the break-point. That she does not falter as she holds
her breath deep in her frigid lungs, lungs love-sick
for the touch of air. Pray that the overhead light
in the hotel bathroom flickers like a snake’s tongue
tasting the eager night while she keeps her eyes open.
It is not for us to know why a god would take her
to this room, dressed still in her red checkered shirt
and blue jeans. It is not for us to know, but pray
we learn. Pray that we see her rise from the ivory depths
of that bathtub, water sluicing from her skin, the folds
of her body forming it into estuaries, forks branching into arms
big enough to embrace a paramour in their depths.
Pray that it is him who plunges down as far
as the murky porcelain will allow.
Let the light fang over his prone form. Let the chambers
of his heart shutter close. Let the luckless be the one to taste
the mournful keening of his submerged body.
Patron Saint of the Forgotten
(Susan Curtis, 15, missing since June 27, 1975, from Provo, Utah)
Pray that her pulse quickens deep
in her chest, sets her skin trembling
like firefly light. Pray she is able to brace herself
against his foul lips, the kisses he longs
to burn along her cheek. Pray her yellow evening
gown learns to hold the color of the ivory moon
in its angled depths, that it never pools around her ankles,
silent as an afterthought. Bless her for the strength
in her legs, those hardened muscles that carried her
along the fifty miles of highway to this place
of teenagers, to this place of prayers
and offerings. Pray that these legs are strong
enough to make her the one who is faster.
Let her be the one to survive, let her be the one to spin
her body through the divide, past the bone-burning heat
of desert sands, the sharp wrench
of mountains. Send her far enough that his hands cannot reach
the path he would take along her collarbone and neck.
Patron Saint of Martyrs
(Nancy Baird, 23, missing since July 4, 1975, from East Layton, Utah)
Pray that if he arrives at that lonely gas station he finds her
armed with a sword that will spread his blood
across the ground like rubies. Pray
that she is ready to usher him toward his last
breath. But if she’s not, pray that women
will never go to bed dreaming of the taste
of his skin across their tongues. Let them know he would
poison them, strip them of heartbeats
and the feeling of morning air, ivory-sharp against their faces.
Let them know if he could, he would wrap his fingers in their hair
and yank until the crack of their necks is the only sound
to split those endless nights. Pray that we care enough
about our own survival. Pray she doesn’t back down
or that we rise with her. Pray that together we tear
this world apart, light him on fire in one sharp electrical burst.
Pray that this life is something we need not fear, that desolate
roads and backwater stations are our haven. That the darkness
of night is our cloak. Pray we do not become martyrs.
Aimée Baker received her MFA in fiction from Arizona State University. Currently, she lives in northern New York, where she is a visiting lecturer at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, and serves as the fiction editor at Saranac Review. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, and others. She is at work on a collection of poetry and a collection of essays.