Immortal

By Henri Cole

With the press of a button,
she appears out
of darkness, sitting
with one ankle
over the other,

in a woven dress
and sandals,
traces of coca leaf
still on her lips,
her hair braided finely,

with a wrinkle in one cheek
where her shawl
touched it.
Sometime after her sacrifice,
lightning probably

burned her body,
leaving the marks.
Fifteen maybe,
well nourished, with blood
still in her heart,

she sits in an
acrylic cylinder
at a temperature of zero,
as she did for five
hundred years

in an underground
niche, after drinking
maize beer
and falling asleep,
then freezing.

A plaque states:
According to beliefs,
children do not die
but join ancestors
on the mountaintop.

“She doth not sleep,”
I thought, years later,
kneeling with my
eyes closed beside
Mother’s coffin.

“Look, Henri, isn’t she beautiful!”
my aunt exclaimed,
but I couldn’t.
I don’t need to know
what I already know.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/08/immortal/308571/