The Lady Who Found the Body Returns to the Police

Yesterday my fortune cookie said,

You’ll soon find

something important, and I didn’t

think nothing till this morning

when I was putting down toast.

Them wontons was burnt.

Whoever had burnt wontons?

When that toast burnt,

I ‘membered the wontons,

then the cookie, and maybe

the numbers on the fortune.

Sometimes I play the numbers

in the Pick 5; Aunty Clarisse won

10,000 at the Pick 5, so I don’t

play nothing else—and maybe

those numbers was what time

I found the body or the license

plate of whatever boy done this.

I’m sure those numbers would tell

you police something,

but I can’t find that slip. You said

I should say something

if I ‘membered something. Ricky,

my husband—two years now, thank you—

says I threw out the slip with the Szechwan

we forgot to stick in the fridge.

I was so upset. It’s better

as leftovers. Last night, when I laid down,

I kept dreaming about the grass

around her legs. I can’t remember

if this was in my dream

or if it was when I found her,

but the grass was black

everywhere around her skin—

by her face, legs, hands.

It was like black fingers

instead of grass, and the fingers,

black as leather pants, were touching

her, not like they’s evil

but like they’s brushing her

with some secret

ceremony for the dead.

I told Ricky I wouldn’t tell you

this next piece, but I’m here

and I can’t shake it: When the fingers

was about done, the body lifted up.

Not like it was alive, but like

it was being pulled up from the middle

by something invisible and holy,

and her fingers—that girl’s, not the grass—

were the only thing

that looked alive.

They was making threes

with both hands, but not

like we make threes

with our middle three, but with a thumb

and the next two like how my granddad

used to count, starting with the thumb,

when he was fixin’ to switch us.

You suppose if I’d been there

early I woulda scared him off? Ricky says

ain’t nothing nobody can do

about what’s done, but I wish I could

‘member them numbers. I swear

two of ‘em was three even if black grass

don’t mean nothing but a dream.

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