I liked going to Fordham Road with Mom.
We'd ride the 12A bus to the bustling
Bronx shopping strip. When I was ten,
Mom took me there, to Alexander's,
to buy me some shirts for the coming
school year. The store was grand,
it had everything. But what I liked most
of all was being there with her. She
was kind, pretty, and young. She bought
what we could afford, 2 bargain bin
paisley shirts. Afterwards, we walked
a few blocks to The UA Valentine to see
a movie "The Sound of Music." But I
can't say I liked the homely Miss Hathaway
of "The Beverly Hillbillies" look-alike
belting out shit about hills coming alive.
When I wore one of the shirts to school,
the jaunty teacher, Mr. Pakula, saw fit
to announce to the entire class that me
and another kid, Lucas Ortiz, were wearing
identical shirts, like he was shocked
that 2 boys in the same packed working-
class 4th grade classroom would be sporting
the same cheap shirt. The paisley shirt
my mother chose. Shielded by the fashion
faux pas, he pleasured in shaming us. Face
flushed red hot, I shouted, Fuck You!
And Lucas, who probably didn't care
about Pakula's crack, had to outdo me,
hurling a chair. But I didn't shout Fuck you!
And Lucas didn't hurl a chair. Shame
stuck to my gut, the shirt, to my back.