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American Folk Hero: A Mammy in Rome

— Juliette Givhan

We joked about throwing her in the Tiber—
her giant lips a perpetual smile

advertising a storefront,
finger black as coal

gesturing a welcome
that didn’t reach eyes so white

they stood out of the caked dust cobbles—
a haunting.

We joked about drowning her—
a release under the cover of night,

one of us at her large, sandaled toes,
the other cradling a polka dot bandana

hiding her kinks—
running along Lungotevere

like cartoon thieves in a maze of city,
dodging la gente like Frogger—

two Americans already out of place
dragging a caricature corpse

down seventy steps cut into the river wall
            to freedom.

We joked about adding her body
to the unnamed & the swallowed,

let her ooze down to nothing—
shred apart in minor rapids

in a city incapable of shuttering her windows
in respect for the dead—

but all we could really do
was pretend to laugh,

pretend it sounded different than crying—
& leave her there.

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