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Even the machines missed the bodies
on their first scans because machines can

play chess, play the piano, play
the market, but they can't learn to lie

like a magician, never learned how to make a body
vanish and make the crowd applaud the departure

of that body, name, footsteps
that told the family that body was walking

through the front door in time for dinner.
The plantation will turn

into a school. Torture becomes teachable
moments. Lead Belly becomes CCR.

But every good trick desires
an illusion, so our wide eyes will swear

they see the ghost of the accountant's assistant smiling
while he watches a little black girl sweat

over a calculus midterm. We will swear
there's a ghost in the locker room

watching little boys of all colors—
chalk, cream, and coffee-black—trade dick

jokes before practice. We will swear
there's a chorus of ghost hands clapping

at graduation while the valedictorian
gives a speech about the work

ethic she learns from her father
by watching him rise up from the dead

of night to go work two jobs.
We'll swear we saw those ghosts smile

one last time before they bathe themselves
in the Lethe-soaked light of oblivion.
But those ghosts know

every trick the country has ever played.
Those ghosts aren't in any hurry to leave.

They need to know why we left them
on this plantation when we could've imagined them

anywhere else. They need to know why we keep talking
about work when there are 95 funeral songs that need

singing. They need to know what else are we
willing to share after sharing an article

or a solidarity emoji. And they need
to know if Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer

will play the one black woman forgotten
in these 95 boxes of black bones

and they need to know how we believe in 95 ghosts
being only 95 ghosts and they need to know

how we ever learned to walk
in a country where every sidewalk is a lost graveyard.

They need to know how we ever managed
to turn something so rotten into something so sweet.