Filene's department store near nineteen-fifty-three: An Aunt Jemima floor display. Red bandanna, Apron holding white rolls of black fat fast against the bubbling pancakes, bowls and bowls of pale batter. This is what Donna sees, across the "Cookwares" floor, and hears "Donnessa?" Please, This can not be my aunt. Father's long-gone sister, nineteen-fifty-three. "Girl?" Had they lost her, missed her? This is not the question. This must not be my aunt. Jemima? Pays the rent. Family mirrors haunt their own reflections. Ladders. Sisters. Nieces. As soon as a live Jemima as a buck-eyed rhesus monkey. Girl? Answer me.
From The Venus Hottentot by Elizabeth Alexander. Copyright © 2004 by Elizabeth Alexander. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.