It turned out to be a cyclist on her morning route
who unearthed him: pink bloom amid rocks and mashed
leaves, the frozen ground unwilling to give him up.
He'd been missing for days and throughout
the town, neon fliers begging for his safe return
were hammered to distribution poles, stapled to trees.
At the police station, the receptionist from Joe's Paint and Body
fills out the necessary forms and weeps
when an officer carries him in. It's not their job
to clean him up, he says, when she asks why
the cardboard box is leaking mud. She rinses him
in the ladies' room sink, pats him dry with brown napkins.
He rides shotgun with her back to work, where the men
pause from airbrushing a mountain stream
long enough to watch her settle him back in the manger.
She thumbs a fleck of mud from a chiseled eye
and topples the stuffed wise man offering gold. She's busy
straightening, making things right, and doesn't notice
that behind her, the men return to work, swirling
a sunset over painted water, the jeweled brook
rippling back to life beneath their hands.