“Incident Reports: The Vanishing” by Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson

Image by Debbie Schiel

Case File: No. 1
My husband was washing dishes,
his hands in those yellow rubber gloves,
the water running, a hum.
I looked up to a sink full of soap,
limp gloves on tiles.

Case File: No. 2
I scoured the woods on my own
after 9-1-1 was reduced to a busy signal.
Kept checking under the same log.
Your shovel, pink with a purple sparkled
handle, dug into the ground next to
a particularly pleasing pine.

Case File: No. 3
I left school early,
took the train to the sea,
smoked till dusk, heard
the news while waiting
on the platform. Listed among
the missing. I have
no need to go home.

Case File: No. 4
I cannot explain where the bulk
of my world went between breaths:
books float, the air has a blue
tinge and walls have started
to share their history
in pubescent voices.
I keep the last part to myself.

Case File: No. 5
When I wake, the laptops are still
snuggling, one on top of the other
She is not pressed in beside me,
not waiting in the kitchen
with a mug of coffee.

Case File: No. 6
We were alone on the top floor
of a building, mid construction,
no foreman barking orders.

Case File: No. 7
The stars thick above me,
fireflies coming out of the marsh,
mating. I leaned over to shake
my wife awake in her sleeping bag,
but the synthetic plaid
covered no one. I waited
two days, smoking
till my pack ran out.

Case File: No. 8
I might as well have been
in space, the circle of white
false light, that magnetic
hum. I cannot see them anymore,
the technicians in their scrubs.

Case File: No. 9
A house aflame.

Case File: No. 10
I find myself blaming him
for leaving his shirt on the sofa,
the half finished mantelpiece,
thin leaves of wood
curled on the landing.
Even weeks later his hairs
on the floor, brown strands
sticking to my socks.

Case File: No. 11
All that remains of him is a bruise
below my thigh, green tea yellow.

Case File: No. 12
Was it a matter of geographic positioning,
or did they do something right?
My boss, vanishing at the three hole punch,
certainly didn’t believe in God.
I don’t recall my barista
being generous, but I saw her picture,
shellacked to a telephone pole.

Case File: No. 13
I sat on the porch, lunchbox in hand,
until the red haired lady next door,
led me to her kitchen, piled a blue
plate full of gingerbread cookies,
pushed it in front of me.

Case File: No. 14
Rent is so cheap now.
I am alone on the top floor
of a brownstone. My landlord
loves hearing my
footsteps above her.

Case File: No. 15
The people on my block
crowd together, one
apartment building,
our home. Strangers
sharing rooms.

Case File: No. 16
Alone on the farm, I found out later.
But I still don’t know for sure,
it could all be a hoax.
The man that delivers my milk
still pops by once a week.

Case File: No. 17
People no longer talk about loss
as if it is something only they feel.
We dance in public. If a wail
is heard we hug the stranger.
So familiar is the sound of our bodies
before they fall asleep.

Case File: No. 18
I miss a good conversation
about world politics or pie making.
Now it’s always about missing,
loneliness, quiet.

Case File: No. 19
The church is full.

Case file: No. 20
Did you hear about any dogs
vanishing, cats disappearing,
like magicians assistants?
No. I didn’t think so.

Case File: No. 21
To walk the streets of Toyko now,
is to dream. Still the buildings,
lights, but so few people. Touch
no longer an accident.

Case Files: No. 22
Damn your tears and tissue,
you survived, celebrate! Have beer,
smoke, shoot out the windows
of the house, now empty, next door.


Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson has a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in the Hart House Review, Imago, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Right Hand Pointing and The Toronto Quarterly. Her first collection of poems Selected Victims Of Ted Bundy is forthcoming this fall from Jeanne Duval Editions.

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1 Comment

  1. Krishan

    Caitlin has now published her second chapbook, which includes the above poem. Find out more about it here: http://www.neonmagazine.co.uk/?p=4914