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Greatest Nigger Who Ever Lived


ISSUE:  Fall 2020

 

in the selfie he is currently texting to “Lula Mae,”
the man next to me on flight 4853
to Columbia, dressed in a black turtleneck
and a thick double chain,
smirks at the camera an arm’s length from his face,
below which, the blue bubble (his words)
proclaims him “The Greatest Nigger Who Ever Lived.”
Perhaps I should be looking out the window and not at his phone, 
but our thighs are touching
because the armrest that should prevent such intimacy is up,
and I think of his heavy, soft chuckle when he struggled
out of his seat to let me in (a chuckle brown as any uncle—
                    and maybe
                    I think all older black people 
                    are my family,
                    and I did have an aunt named Lula Mae
                    who I did not know well,
                    but I knew her laugh out of any laugh
                    in the whole smiling world
                    because it was an incomparable shrill,
                    the greatest, maybe,
                    somewhere, glass is breaking even at its ghost—),

and maybe when I’m older I will marry
a Great Nigger—not the greatest; that position’s taken—
and he will keep an old photo of me on his cell phone
just like The Greatest does of Lula Mae, I see,
when she was several decades younger but just as fine,
smiling, with the most glittering hint of mischief in her dimple,
the soft focus of the camera incapable of hiding
the way Lula’s big white teeth
make everything greater greater greater greater greater—

 

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