PROSE-POEM: ‘Lost Girl Elegy’

‘FIELD OF DREAMS’ | Barboursville, WV city park | april2024 | photo

‘Lost Girl Elegy’

by douglas john imbrogno |


He’s on his way from here to there. Picking up a tuna sandwich dinner as a cool downpour soaks the neighborhood. In the Taco Bell lot by the mall, in a grey hoodie and multicolored leggings, stands a young woman in the rain. She must be waiting for a bus. Or a friend or parent to pick her up. Yet, she just stands in the insistent deluge. He drives on. Gets his dinner. Earns a dimpled grin from the slight, pretty teen assembling his meal, praising her ‘master sandwichery …’

The worker looks like his daughter — now, three decades into life — when she was a flaxen haired, ungainly, sticks-and-bones, beauty to be. Driving back the way he came, the hoodied girl still stands upon the blacktop in the cold cloudburst. She turns toward the Taco Bell’s sanctuary. Stops. Turns back into the rainstorm’s cascade. He thinks … He is 5 minutes from home, a warm easy chair and that evening’s meal. Instead, gets into the turning lane.


Heeds the green arrow, pointing, now, the woman’s way. Moments later, pulls beside her. Motors down his window. Are you OK? Waiting for someone? She is slight. Looks like she may be from a Central or South American land. Maybe the Caribbean. Her face, now that she leans toward him, looks so much like the girl from Trinidad and Dublin he swooned for, five decades past at his old university. Except she’d been — that young woman — bright-eyed.

Clear-eyed. Present. This lost young thing looks scattered. Distracted by fly-by, flitting thoughts. No. She says. Where do you live? Nods to the right. That way. Staring into the rainy night. Then, asks if he can take her to a city an hour away. He decides he cannot. Although, once he did that for a 50-something woman, striding the neighborhood in a wicked blizzard. Delivered her to what she said was her front door.


Just out of jail. She’d said. Him, handing over a $10 bill, to help upon whatever was her way. This hoodied woman won’t let him drop her at the City Mission, 15 minutes westward. No. He digs into his wallet. Hands over a $20 bill. God bless you. But where’s the god for lost girls in a squalling storm? She turns to go back into the Taco Bell. He shuts off his car. Gets out. Do you have a phone? She does not. Anyone at all to call?

At the counter, two fast-food workers, shirts blazoned with the place’s logo, one ear cupped by a black earpiece and jutting mic for drive-up orders, say the woman cannot use their phone. Company policy. She fishes from her plastic sack of stuff a crumpled paper. A number. He punches it into his iPhone. Hands the phone to her. A moment later, she hands it back. No one answered. She walks back out the door, into the rain.


He punches numbers again. 9-1-1. What’s your emergency? He explains. A young woman. The rain. Maybe homeless, maybe having a mental illness episode. The dispatcher takes his name. We’ll dispatch someone. In the lot, he gets back into his car. Roots around the backseat with an arm. Finds it. Hands her a folded-up umbrella. Oh, thank you. Fumbles with it. Push the bottom to make it open … Moments later, a local cruiser arrives.

Cop gets out in the drizzle. Red hair, mustache. Muscled. Yet his voice is not aggressive. Solicitous, even. How can I help you? No, I can’t take you to Charleston … Behind the wheel, engine idling, ready to leave, he leans out the window into the wet evening. Thank you, officer … Home five minutes later, he tells his spouse. She looked like Lisa … Was someone’s lost daughter.

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