When I die, I hope they talk about me
like they talk about the recently dead
president who oversaw the bombing
of countless children. Headlines today recall
his beloved three-year-old girl,
who he apparently hopes to meet
when he gets to heaven. I hope
there is a heaven copious enough
to hold a place for every soul, even
the soul of a man who sired a man
some of us thought was the very worst
man. We all make mistakes.
There is, we learned, as we all must learn,
always an even worse man willing to take
the job. I didn’t even know that guy
had a daughter. When he was breathing
all I ever heard was son, son, son. But now
his little girl is headline news, and I have to dig deep
below the fold to find stories about how
he turned his back on boys who were quilting
America’s cities in gay enclaves. Many Black women
died of the same neglect and, Good Lord, I remember
the news used to talk about babies, blood
saturated in suffering. Not today, though.
Today, the papers can’t even speak of his war
without casting that failure, also, as a bid for peace.
So, please, when I die, forget all the fires
I set. Forget the many ways I have maimed you,
ignored you, laughed in your face. Say what
I was after, after all, was, perhaps, a peace
that surpasses understanding. Say I loved
one girl desperately. Her ghost haunted me
my whole life. I heard that dead girl—
my child—crying, endlessly, all over
the world. Remember that.
Photograph of Camille T. Dungy © Rachel Eliza Griffiths.