If I told you simply that the bed in the Baptist Hospital
Last occupied by Cora Stokes is empty again,
And the patient didn’t go home, you’d be likely
Not to feel much interest. So I’m adding here
The news that she’s gone missing, that any tip
On her whereabouts will be highly prized.
Cora Stokes, female, African-American,
Forty-seven, five feet, five inches,
Slender, with a mole on her chin
And a small scar over her right eyebrow.
Last seen the day before yesterday
In the cardiac wing by a night nurse
Who didn’t like the looks of her chart.
Till a week ago, a teacher of botany
At Jefferson Junior High in Chesterfield.
On Wednesday nights a player of bridge
With three women she’s known since grade school.
Left-handed. Slaps her head with her left hand
When she makes a mistake in bidding
Made by beginners. Owner of a bungalow
On Cherry Street, three bedrooms,
One occupied by her mother, Bessie,
Seventy-six, crippled by arthritis,
One by her daughter, Trish, eleven,
A fifth grander at Holy Angels, no Baptist school
Near-by being available. Single mother
Observed by neighbors on weekends
Working with daughter in vegetable garden
While mother looks on from a canvas chair.
Observed on Sundays driving the pair
To Second Baptist on Randolph Street.
Believes that her god sees everything;
Not sure what he does with the information.
An abstainer from alcohol for eleven years
Except for the break after the operation
When a lump in her right breast was removed.
Movie-goer, with a preference for heavy
Domestic drama, three-handkerchief features
That serve to keep her heart soft and flexible.
Worried she has no room in her heart
For two back-biting colleagues,
Two teachers she’d assign some serious time
In Purgatory if she were Catholic.
Reader of the personal columns in the Star,
Confident she’ll be happier when she swears off men
And doesn’t relent as she did the last time.
Lover of swing-band music, owner of a canary
She gives the run of the house an hour at dusk,
The time of day that for her seems least confining,
Most open to possibility, to change.
If you can provide any clues on her whereabouts
Please step forward. If they lead to her being found,
The reward you’ll receive will be substantial,
Though a mere token of what you’re owed.