What splendid cloths they are:
fine linen for the oppressive subtropical air,
button-down collars, tight stitching in perfect single-file
formation up and down the crisp short sleeves.
The colors dazzle in patterns designed
to be proudly worn by a mayor's son.
And so they were, until cast aside and found by
the mayor's housekeeper, who lived down the street from us.
“Look at these,” the mayor's housekeeper says to my mother,
eyebrows raised as she unfolded the limp orphans
taken from a closet more regal than the one I shared with
“I'll take them,” mamá says to the housekeeper.
Jubilant, my mother presents the prizes to me.
“Look at this one, this other, and how about this shirt?”
Rotten is too sweet a word for the luck I feel.
My two school-year shirts are not ungrateful for the company,
yet I fear the collection of fibers on my back
will announce a mayor's son's shirt in a school hallway
like a political convention on its feet for the
nominee's acceptance speech, party hats and all.
There are ninety-nine students in my class, plus ninety-nine
juniors, and maybe one hundred seniors. In this small high school,
there are not enough ruffles, or plaids, stripes, or checks
to camouflage my recent acquisitions. Never enough
bell-bottoms, paisley print, or tie-dyed T-shirts, or
disco polyester, or -
“Hey, nice shirt,” the mayor's son says to me, grinning through
his silver-wire teeth.
Why thank you, I say.
Thank you ...very... much.
Would you like a party hat?