I Just Want To Look by Terrance Hayes

A friend called to tell me there was a topless woman picketing
outside the court house so I got my keys and eyeglasses,
but when I got there, there were already so many onlookers,
I could see nothing but the top of her sign reading :
I HAVE THE RIGHT TO— the rest of it was blocked
by bobble-headed men in suits, by near boys in ball caps,
by afros and bald spots. “What does it say?” I asked the mail
man fanning himself with a big confidential looking envelope.
“I’m sorry,” he said, then “Is this for you?” handing me
the envelope which had nothing but “To son” “From Mom”
written on it. The crowd moved a foot or two east, then
a foot or two west following the bare sign bearing woman.
“I know I should have given it to you long ago,” the mail man
was saying, “but I just couldn’t bear being the bearer of bad news
another day.” “That’s what you think” a large women yelled down
in the direction of the topless woman from the second floor
of the court house tossing out what looked like an old jacket
then the men sent a disapproving roar up and the jacket seemed
to gather wind and flap off toward the river. “You have no idea
how hard my job is” the mail man said below the ruckus,
something was going on at the steps of the court house.
“Is she dressing now” I asked a policeman fondling his nightstick.
“You’re lucky,” he said and I thought maybe he knew how I’d stopped
less than inch from the kneecaps of an old lady pedestrian
that morning. “Your name is Lucky Jefferson, correct?
The infamous numbers runner and star pimp of Garfield?”
“No, no, I don’t know what you’re talking about” I said.
“And there is never anything in my own mailbox,” the mail man
Said to me. It was like a dark forest there in the middle
of downtown, all that shoulder to shouldering and gawking
at backs. The policeman stared at me and said “I’m sure
you’re Lucky. We were in high school together. Remember the night
We listened to Purple Rain until my mother got home
from her job at the hospital?” “Rick,” I said. “Is that you?
Lord, I never thought you’d become a cop!” “My name is Alvin,”
the policeman said reaching for his cuffs. Inside the envelope
the mail man gave me I found a drawing of daisies in a blue vase
and below them the words: You forgot Mother’s Day, Bastard.
“Woooo” the crowd said, but I still could see hide nor hair
of the topless woman. “I send my mother cards, but she sends nothing
to me” the mail man said. The policeman lay a hand on his shoulder.
The woman from the second floor of the court house yelled
“No, no you don’t have the right to do that!” and I realized suddenly
she was talking to me. I lifted the empty envelope over my head
and I swear everyone in the crowd turned to face me.

Best American Poetry 2010.
Published in this issue: www.amazon.com/Mipoesias-Matthew-Hittinger/dp/1440471746

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