“Updates on Etan Patz” (Streaming Prose Poem)


Updates on Etan Patz

All day I return to it – the stark print underlined in red like a stripped throat;
the picture, if I click–the face that seems all hair, that soft fine down
that so often heads young kids, thin even as mop, like knob of joint on child bone–

Throat catches in stairwell seen through glass, a square in thick paint door, how I remember them in Soho, all those old factories huge as elephants, stairs wrinkled/stretched/collapsed like so many trunks; no, throats; outlined in black-cracked red the squares of linoleum, glass gridded as a crossword, only mute, ruffs of papers stuffed around the knobs, calligraphy like throats–what’s black and white and re(a)d all over?  Not newspaper, but Chinese menus–

Only online today, it’s underlined in red with slight-toothed grin, cheeks to be grown into, the same photo so many years we saw on the blue/red torso of milk, only then the black/white/grey of blow-up, Etan Patz, your sweet face blurred still hard to swallow–

later, my own–don’t you ever –the baker’s near-bare shelves mid-afternoons, Italian breadcrumbs a host of Hansels–

Even speak – don’t you ever-

Making sure–again, again–well, if you have to speak, yes, you can be polite, but–the Portuguese greengrocer stubbled–but you get nervous you go into–grouch if you touched a grape but would help I hope/think/pray–

Joe’s pizza, black shined hair, all thumbs still on the young ones–

Not car, not alley, not down stairs–scream if you have to

Rocco’s waitresses–their tight breasts squeezed in uniforms like nurses administering cannoli–they would help you, sure–with beveled glass–

He strangled Etan, the man says now, and put him–

he strangled him, he says–

if you get scared

and put him

don’t you ever

in a box.

You just go into

A carton on the counter next to small gnome fridge–

his black and white face greyed
as droplets–no A/C on fifth floor walk-up–slide
like tears down its red-waxed sides–

I click again, again; throat hurts.


This draft poem written this evening for dVerse Poets Pub “Meeting the Bar” prompt on “stream of consciousness” writing, hosted by the wonderful Victoria C. Slotto.  For those who get by email, I’ve changed the end since posting. 

A part of me really hesitates to post anything about Etan Patz.  I feel such sorrow for his family;  I would hate to add to their pain in any way or to seem to be voyeuristic or opportunistic.  I really hope that my sympathy comes through and that they may feel some sense of support in so many people caring for them and Etan.  (I also hope that the media leave them alone.)

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30 Comments on ““Updates on Etan Patz” (Streaming Prose Poem)”

  1. janehewey Says:

    it’s been gnawing at me today; I’m glad you posted this poem. it seems you accessed a true stream of deep, sub-conscious. sometimes, many times, especially when it comes from a writer as conscious as you seem to be, it helps transform it from pain into movable pain. underlined, blown-up and not forgotten. actively voiced and therefore changed, in some small way. ~jane

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much. I was thinking of it too, and went away from different perhaps more unconscious streams as the subject is so very serious that I didn’t want to do something too goofy. k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Jane. I changed a little, I don’t know. A bit hard to read news stories now somehow. Can’t imagine the pain of the parents; just terrible.

  2. marousia Says:

    Great flow 🙂

  3. David King Says:

    I am sure your hopes will be fully realised. The piece is sensitive and yes, for me, the empathy came through. Excellent.

  4. brian miller Says:

    i think you were sentitive to them in your write yet staying true to your own feelings as well and these are things that def cling to the edges of our minds you know…funny how the further you go you move from para’s to ever shortening sentences and that increased the pace for me…

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes- was working on too many things. In my mind’s version on subway more free-ranging but just couldn’t go those places because of subject matter, at least couldn’t go casually– k.

  5. hedgewitch Says:

    A very difficult place to take the writing, as you say private, but also so close and so universal and such a constant fear(and recurring hideous crime in too many lives) that it transcends one incident. Your compassion I think does come through, but it is an event of horror, and it would be both disrespectful and disingenuous to keep that out. The main thing that comes through to me is vulnerability, and the limits of our power as parents to protect. Quite a strong and meaningful piece,k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Joy. That means a great deal to me. You know the great and horrible thing about blogging is that you –if you are me–are forced to work quite quickly, and in gaps, and there can be this terrible feeling that you are really putting up gibberish – and this one was so strange, as of course, the actual stream of consciousness is much longer, and more oddly-ranging, but you really have to cut, I think – at least I do–and cut a lot. So, here the question arises as to what you cut, i.e. what is your subject matter–the flickering nature of the mind or the triggering object? In this case, the trigger is so serious, that I really couldn’t turn it into being about the flickering nature of mind. That may have been more illuminating oddly, but I just couldn’t do it on a rushed basis; so then I woke up this morning wondering, hmmm… what boat had I ended up in? And, of course, still feeling so saddened by all the news coverage. K.

  6. kaykuala Says:

    To live with it, the empathy can be so painful. To endure together would be great support. You have been noble in your efforts. That itself is such a sacrifice. Thanks, K for bringing us to our senses!


  7. claudia Says:

    not familiar with the name..but sensing what happened…think you approached it in a very sensitive way…not an easy topic to tackle..

  8. chris Says:

    Chilling, but like Claudia says, your approach is sensitive. Difficult subject matter to write about. I do like the way the piece moves, the way it is slightly surreal, which fits the topic.

  9. Oh, this made me cry.

  10. This really got to me, Karin. I just ready about this in the paper this morning and the way you express it, the image, every single word just aches. The comparison between the milk carton and the box the creep left him in in the alley gave me the chills. What a profound idea, to take a news item like this and let it unravel onto the paper. Like you, my heart aches for the family, but I believe getting these things out in poetic form has a healing quality for all involved. Outrage expressed.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Victoria. Of course, I was living in New York at the time of this, and it affected us all very deeply. I just can’t express the sorrow that I feel for Etan’s family. I was thinking more about it today and may post another poem trying to make it more general–k.

  11. Gay Says:

    WOW! You gave voice to the ache every parent in the world feels regarding this story and the many other kidnappings. Your poetry invests this event with the scope of emotions and the unending days of pain in that loss. You nail the perpetrator with the anger and frustration of a world that is angry and frustrated with the lost of trust and social consciousness. Excellent writing.

  12. seingraham Says:

    Such a powerful write about this tragic event … I remember it well, even in Canada it was covered extensively and, as others have mentioned, every parent’s worst nightmare. Your poem does justice to the feelings and emotions surrounding those days, and all that came after, in a sensitive way that brings the reader in, gives them a taste of that terror without trivializing it in any way. A very good poem. In my view, Etan Patz deserves to be memorialised in ways beyond the milk carton and with your poem, you have done that well


  13. hypercryptical Says:

    A powerful write indeed. I had to google Etan Patz and the milk carton had already told me what I would find, and I felt immensely sad when reading of him.

    Beautifully and sensitively done.


  14. David King Says:

    It worked well for me, it still works well, but I’d find it hard to choose between them.

  15. poemsofhateandhope Says:

    I hadn’t heard of this tragedy before- I looked it up before reading. I actually thought this was amazingly written….stylistic but not overdoing it….staying true to the stream….amazing to see how your thoughts tumble between characters and voices…particularly in the lat few lines that just builds this to an incredibly sad climax….poor boy….heart goes out to his family

  16. Chazinator Says:

    I read about this over here in Denmark. It’s a horrifying crime, terrible for parents to think about, instilling such fear that we inject it into their lives so early now. It makes me feel bad, feeling that I might have deprived them of the freedoms and innocence I had as a child, fearful so much that this terror lurked somewhere, hidden. Your poem brings back that horror, which as children we only understood vaguely.

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