Sapphire water midday.
A hint of elk antlers on the water’s skin.
Sounds of an eagle crying.
An owl feather refusing to sink.
Fishing line snaking slowly past my pillow.
My husband’s hands while he sleeps.
— “Elegant Things,” from “The Missing Ones: Poems by Lauren Davis”
PORT TOWNSEND — On July 3, 1929, a couple from Port Angeles was driving on U.S. Highway 101 along the shore of Lake Crescent.
Blanch Warren, 33, and her husband, Russell, 35, disappeared that night. Their Chevrolet sedan had apparently swerved into the water, commencing a mystery that would not be solved for decades.
In 2004, Olympic National Park divers found bones, thought to be the Warrens’, more than 150 feet below the surface. The remains were discovered near the wreckage of a 1927 Chevy.
It was Blanch’s story that spoke to Lauren Davis, a poet who first laid eyes on Lake Crescent on a road trip eight years ago.
“I fell in love with it immediately,” recalled Davis, who moved to Port Townsend in 2014.
She’s just released “The Missing Ones,” her chapbook of 21 poems inspired by the Warrens’ tale. Her publisher is Winter texts of Port Townsend, producer of “odd and meaningful books,” according to its website. “Pocket Guide to Wandering” by publisher Conner Bouchard-Roberts is one of the other titles available.
In her book’s pages, Davis seeks to give Blanch a voice, one that speaks across time of grief, longing and love. The poet learned about the Warrens from Dan Pontbriand’s 2012 book, “The Missing Ones: A True Story,” and she proceeded to research their fate over the course of several years.
In addition to publishing her work, Davis, 35, is a bookseller at Port Townsend’s Imprint Books and an instructor at the adjacent Writers’ Workshoppe.
Her “Missing Ones” took about two years to write, and when Davis finished it, she felt released — and determined to publish these poems in an unconventional way.
The chapbook is a limited-edition printing of just 40 copies from Imprint Books and via wintertexts.com.
“I love limited editions. They represent impermanence,” Davis said, adding she chose Winter texts knowing the company did such printings.
If her “Missing Ones” poems ever reappear, it will be in a full-length collection yet to be conceived, she said.
“The words just took my breath away. I love the way [Davis] writes,” said Judy Borenin, another Port Townsend poet and one of the first to own a copy of the chapbook.
“Her images are so strong, but they’re submerged,” while evoking the lake, the moon and the woman aching for her mate and her two sons.
The words are sparse and strong; this is poetry you don’t have to puzzle out, Borenin added. The poems express Blanch’s secrets vividly, “a tremendously hard thing to do.”
Davis “is a very tenderhearted person,” she said.
In “Missing,” “there’s a terrible tenderness … Life can be so tragic. It changes in an instant. The couple were on their way home to their boys, and that was it.”
This dark stuff affects each reader differently. Poetry across the spectrum, Borenin said, “allows people to be softened to the world.”
“At different points in my life, darker poetry has been a salve,” said Davis, “and at other times, I’ve needed to read poetry that is deliberately hopeful and tender.
“I believe strongly that every book, no matter what it is, has a reader waiting to discover it.”
Davis also authored “Each Wild Thing’s Consent,” her 2018 book of poems exploring feminine disconnect and healing. She has “Home Beneath the Church,” a full-length poetry collection, coming out in spring from Fernwood Press.
When you at last hold your published book in your hands, Davis said, “it’s an incredible feeling. It doesn’t feel real sometimes,” after all the solitary time spent writing.
“For me, Blanch’s story is one of unresolved grief,” she added.
Davis also hopes others who have lost their lives at Lake Crescent — and there have been several since the Warrens disappeared, including Margaret Baker in 2020 and Lena Lang in 2019 — are never forgotten.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]