“I am the grandchild of Addie Mae Collins.” She holds a lacquered nail up to the lips of the one in lockstep, the one who casts a dubious glance her way but then gets it, proclaims herself the granddaughter of Emmett Till. They pause long enough to kiss under a tree whose limbs are bursting with grandchildren.
A withered one in the seat of a wheelchair says, “I should have recognized it, that flag of false fear.” Never forget, she had incanted these decades, cautioning to rows of people, even while she believed every one of them safe. The caretaker’s hat slips off her head and into the old woman’s lap. She strokes it like a kitten.
Look at her—she clasps fingers under a belly round as Earth, holding so firmly it’s as if her whole middle will drop onto the asphalt if she doesn’t support the weight. She’s named him already, Hermie. He swims in her sea right now, but soon he will breathe air. It is for this reason that she puts one swelling foot in front of the other.
We must give thanks every day, this one’s father had ever whispered to her, in Vietnamese, never translating for a daughter who said her own prayers in English, who’d been a baby when they fled. She’s an artist, paints chopper blades, faces in wobbly heat, mouths against chain link. The image comes to her in dream and she paints in morning.
But this is the soul you’ve come for, that girl, barely clad though her body shames her. The shiny pages and flickering screens and boys in the hall—their views are now fact. Ratified. She has lost the fight against the beast in the mirror, its hideousness, its fat. She is little more than bones and shrinking as she steps. Scoop her into your palm, hold her up, let her see.
You: “There, now, Mustard Seed. We fill the capital.”