Kari Lynn Nixon

Note: this poem is from a manuscript titled Unsolved Mysteries, which is about a number of unsolved mysteries, including those from the TV show of the same name. Kari Lynn Nixon's case appeared in Season 1, Episode 24.

It’s a rainy night in 1987
and a sixteen-year old walks
to the store
to get snacks and

Someone checks her
out at the store around 10:05. A neighbor
walks by her house and doesn’t see her at
around at 10:10; she goes
missing from about 700 feet
from her house.

Did she run away
or was she kidnapped?
Is she still alive?
What was her relationship with her family like
and does it suggest she would never have run away?

Her relationship with her family was good.
Evidence: she liked to go bowling with them.
She was a cheery kid and
got along with everyone.
She smiled
in many photos.

Annoyed by adherence to small-town
norms as evidence that
she was happy
and therefore didn’t
run away
and therefore
must have been murdered
I root even harder for her to be alive.

I imagine some scenarios,
in which
she leaves because she’s being abused
or to go be queer in New York City
or to go do drugs in New York City
or to go be with a lover in New York City.

She’s too big for this rural town,
she’s suffering for its conservatism. In
the scenario I imagine
she buys her snacks and her friend shows up,
according to plan. She gets into the car.
They drive to the city
they live in a squat
they find loving chosen families and
fuck up and
fall in love with people
and make weird art, catching the tail end of the “downtown
scene,” I speculate.

I.e., this could be a story about liberation.

In real life, two years later, Kari Lynn’s parents watch
a New Kids on the Block video
and see her face in the crowd.

She’s jumping around
dancing. And her parents can see that the girl
in the video, like Kari, has four earrings in her left ear,
which I take to be good evidence that she was
rebellious and looking for a different life,
despite that New Kids on the Block is the opposite
of punk and I think if you were going to flee upstate New York
for something else, that something else would
probably not be the New Kids on the Block.

Authorities ask the New Kids if they know Kari.
They don’t, but they do volunteer to appear on Unsolved
to plead with Kari to come home. It’s Jordan
Knight and Jonathan Knight. Brothers, the two cutest
in the band, who now look so young, as young as
the members of ACT UP in the ACT UP documentaries
I’ve just watched. The clothes are the same, the haircuts are the same.
I’m watching Unsolved Mysteries lying chastely on someone else’s bed;
we both pet the cat, we brush hands;
we look up which of the New Kids would later turn out to be
queer: Jonathan Knight. 

It’s 1989. Kari is either dead or going to concerts.
Jonathan and Jordan are on TV pleading with her to return to her family—
this is thoughtless of them, she must’ve left because her family
was fucked up, I say.

Why tell her to narc on herself.
Elsewhere people
wearing the same clothes as the New
Kids are sitting in at the FDA.

Jordan and Jonathan talk like the people in
ACT UP, like people talked in 1989 rather than now,
rather than in the 70s.
It’s 1989 and
I’m sitting in my bedroom
putting together a heart-shaped jigsaw puzzle of
Jordan Knight’s face,
feeling desire
or perhaps
feeling that this person
is an appropriate object for my proto-desire;
Jordan and Jonathan don’t yet
look to me like they’re from ACT UP;
I haven’t seen footage of ACT UP;
ACT UP has not yet been so effective
as to be televised into conservative households
with seven-year olds 
assembling Jordan Knight’s face
into a heart shape.

I hope Kari is in New York City
but instead
at the end of the episode
we get a perfunctory update:
Kari was raped and murdered by a neighbor
who buried her body in his parents’ yard.
Kari never went to a New Kids concert; she
never escaped upstate New York; the girl at the concert was some
other girl who looked like her, who could be alive or dead right now,

who probably knows she’s in the video for that New Kids concert,
who might know she looked, as a child, like Kari Lynn Nixon,
but who definitely doesn’t know that I’m writing this poem.


Tomorrow is Hitler’s birthday.
Tomorrow is the birthday of
an ex of mine’s grandmother;
she would never celebrate her
birthday on her birthday, because
Hitler’s birthday was, as she said,
nothing to celebrate. We’d go to the
retirement home on a day that was not
her birthday and eat eggs; the food
was very good in the restaurant
section of the fancy retirement
home. Later she would die there
in a place that made good eggs and
that had a lovely balcony area where
people would sit and visit their
relatives, remembering and also not
remembering the details of their lives.

Once I drove from Charleston, where
I went to school, back home to my smaller
shittier hometown, listening to the Talking
Heads very loudly and whenever I talk
to someone also from the South about
missing the humidity, this is the moment
I think of

though now I realize that this is just what I said
then. I was about to leave the South. Alyson,
also about to leave, said she’d miss
the humidity. I drove four hours in AC
to the Talking Heads and now that is the
moment I think of when I think of humidity. False
when you’re little and imagine
you’re leaving your trauma, say, behind.

This is, apparently, a poem about reverie
a poem that takes the form of reverie
as poems have long done. I used to think
I didn’t like reverie. But perhaps I was

wrong. Garfield thinks he hates
Mondays but really he hates
capitalism, as the internet points out.
As the internet points out, Garfield
thinks he
hates Mondays but Garfield doesn’t
even work. Jon works. Garfield
hates it when Jon goes to work, b/c
Garfield loves Jon.

So, like Garfield, it turns out I love Jon.
Or I love Jon, by which I mean I love the
mundane and clueless presence in my
life. Jon as all my attachments, Jon just
hanging there thick in the air, Jon as the food-
steam I release from my Insta Pot,

sticking to the walls.

The internet has a video of
a cicada yelling “awww yeah.”

Also recently I watched a video that
shows a corgi sneaking out to a
fence in the cover of night and
jumping on the back of a small
pony. Then the pony trots
around, with the corgi riding happily.

The people filming and
uploading this scene claim that
this is what happens when they’re not
looking, which I hope is true. Perhaps

the corgi and the pony were born on
Hitler’s birthday. Though it’s unlikely,
perhaps they also know this, that they were
born on Hitler’s birthday. The pony gives
the corgi a ride and they talk about it
every day. Otherwise the corgi and the
pony are not personified. They don’t
understand human things otherwise; they
were just born knowing that the date
was 4/20; that Hitler too was born on
4/20; that Hitler was a fascist
leader who killed unfathomable
numbers of people. They want to talk
about something else as the pony trots
around the yard, as the corgi holds on
but they have no other thoughts in their little
animal brains and so they don’t. The screen
of my phone sweats; I picture a cartoon version
of planet Earth but covered in hair. It’s time
to dream.


Marie Buck's most recent collection of poems is Goodnight, Marie, May God Have Mercy on Your Soul (Roof, 2016). She is the managing editor and online literary editor at Social Text and lives in Brooklyn.