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Viral in a Day
Viral in a Day

Brandon Lewis

The video went viral in a day,

the Kentucky woman standing in

line at a JCPenney, an arm on the counter

like she’s leaning against a bar

waiting for some guy to buy her a drink,

won’t allow two Hispanic women

to leave without saying, Go back

to wherever the fuck you come from...

You’re nobody as far as I’m concerned!

Then the classic Speak English,

you’re in America! She turns to those

behind her as if expecting high

fives and fist pumps with You tell ’em

lady, a sudden chant of U-S-A!

U-S-A! A year ago I’d just assume

she was a first-thing-in-the-morning

drinker, at it for hours. I’d figure

that her husband lost his job, or it’s cancer,

or she never finished eighth grade.

An isolated case, as they say, nothing

sinister. In the kitchen at a party,

a close friend of mine shrugs when I bring up

the incident, has only three words

for me, Same old shit. She walks off

to look around for baby Jesus, the nativity

set by the fireplace a crime scene.

I shout, Gives new meaning to second

coming if the dog ate him. She laughs

but not her usual split-the-ceiling

sort of laugh. I think of her story whenever

we get together, how twice she’s had

to sneak across the border, the first

time pregnant with her son, squeezed in

the back of a freight truck. I see her

sitting on the couch holding my three-

year-old daughter in her lap, rocking,

humming songs into her light-brown hair.

I tell myself this is goodness. I tell

myself I’d do anything for this woman

and her family. And yet I can’t say

I’d have the guts to be a Gies or Kugler

with an attic, tool shed, my mother-

in-law’s basement. I can’t say I would’ve

acted any different than the shoppers

in the video, swapping grins like it’s nothing

they haven’t heard before. On a stool

at the counter I pick bits of radish and carne

asada from a plate, thinking of a girl

in Schindler’s List, not the one in red

wandering a ghetto, not the one beaten by

Amon Goeth, but the Pole throwing

mud at a crowd filing past along a road

in Kraków, her scream Goodbye Jews! Goodbye

Jews! Goodbye Jews!, a glint of pride

in her eyes as if she herself wills this departure,

and knows exactly where they’re going.

BRANDON LEWIS was born in Seattle, Washington, and lives with his wife and children just north of Centralia, where he teaches high school English. In 2018 he received his MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. His poems have appeared in Superstition Review, Nashville Review, Naugatuck River Review, and The Tusculum Review.

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