after hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates speak Long gone in rot, decay of the warm Virginia ground, swelter of summer. Riddled with wormholes, I can see it in my mind’s eye, hanging in my grandfather’s closet, though I know great-great-great-great-grandfather was buried in it. Memory inhabits our heritage, the way you spoke of imagined whiteness binding together slave-owners, slave- owner aspirants, as great- great-great-great grandfather must have been, to be buried in beloved Confederate grey. I imagine the cap, crossed rifles resting above a placid, generic, dead white man’s face. How fast decay happens in humidity’s hug, that embrace I love to walk into when I leave my own cold hometown. My body feels built for the heat, like my mother’s freckled body, our old Virginia line. I don’t even remember his first name. I imagine the bodies that fell around him and his drummer-boy son, then his grandson, great- grandson, fighters in every major war of this democracy you spoke about. I have not gone to war. My mother’s daughter, our bodies never acclimated to the damp cold of my fog-locked city, the Pacific’s wind-drawn blanket. I am a daughter of a nation whose heritage, you said again, is plunder. I remember the brown body of my father, the way he angled toward me after we sold the house, when he told me I should keep the money for myself. Just in case. How the fog plunders the sky for space. Because marriages, sometimes, do not work out, because my wife didn’t come from money, and who’s to say that what is mine is truly hers. What vow, what promises matter, when you’re looking at that kind of bounty, like the wet earth blooming sunflowers, where once there were graves. To hold a piece of dirt, or a dollar, or a human being, say: this here, it belongs to me. I imagine the bodies of my Virginia relatives at the last family reunion. I was curious, but too fearful to attend. What if I was the only brown body. What if I was not, what if there was tension between the Black and the white McDonoughs, or what if the white ones tried (they always try) to enlist me. What if we met under a tree, a spot of shade in the unbroken heat, a resting place, that tree where once— I cannot imagine. You said being moral was easy, said we have to consider what is just. I imagine the uniform again, hanging cold in a cedar-scented closet. I imagine the smell and the heat on my face, distorted from flame, burning that house to the ground— My fingers still stroking the textured wool, the fragile fraying, the moth holes.