(First appeared in American Poetry Review, Vol. 33/No. 1, Jan/Feb 2004 pg 31; and is also in The Soup of Something Missing.)
The Woman Not Wearing A Hat
For two dollars you could run
your hands through her hair.
That’s what the cardboard sign
between her hands said.
A hat at her feet collected the money.
Wind pushing against her hair forced it to sway.
I dropped my two dollars in and grabbed
the hair at the back of her neck.
I closed my eyes; she closed hers.
(I don’t recall whose eyes closed first.)
It was the middle of the afternoon.
Perspiration dampened her hair.
I could feel people looking at me.
For years I told people I only did it
so she didn’t feel like she was taking charity.
That’s not exactly true,
for years I wouldn’t tell anyone.
I ran my hand to the top of her head,
turned and left before she opened her eyes.
There’s no telling what a man is willing to pay for.