Lauren Davis’s The Missing Ones

Lauren Davis’s The Missing Ones is a slim but engrossing collection that reimagines disappearance of Russell and Blanch Warren. In 1929, the couple were driving home to reunite with their two young sons and to celebrate theLauren Davis - The Missing Ones 4th of July. Their route took them on Route 101 along Lake Crescent where they presumably drowned. What makes these poems work so well is that Davis doesn’t waste time recreating the ways the Warrens may have ended up driving into the lake. Instead, these poems give voice to the dead as in the very short poem that introduces the collection:

Blanch Says

There are dangers
in deep waters no one

speaks of. Like dark
that climbs the spine.

There’s a stain on the rock
Unfolding. I drink the lake,

all of it. I make it mine.

Many of the poems are in Blanch’s voice. In some, she gives advice, such as in “I’ll Tell You What Happened,” where she says: “Your husband has something to tell you— / you can sense it in the cold. Wait until you are both done / drowning. The build a new home.”

The idea of the lake as a home is one of my favorite aspects of these poems. A grave is a home of a kind, but the lake is a living ecosystem. Some poems reference the lake’s “population” which sometimes mean the fish in the water, or the birds outside, and sometimes it refers to others who have perished in the lake’s waters. In some poems, the idea of the lake as a home is expressed through its “rooms,” all of which suggests that the Warrens are still there, unable to die or be truly forgotten because they were never found. The idea is haunting in numerous ways, especially when the reader is reminded of the couple’s two young sons. This is expressed in Blanch’s voice again in the poem, “Have You Seen,” where she says,

My love haunts good as
any ghost. It is more
than lake deep. Boys—

I am never so buried,
gloated, hemorrhaged with blue
That I forget you.

My only criticism of this lovely book is that it’s too short. I wanted it to go on and on. I guess I could say that I, too, am now haunted by this story.

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