Those were innocent times, the fifties
Korea was the not a war then
and we would not think
there was anything wrong with
Even the police action was
a curiosity
and so was the bag
something to discuss over bridge
in the common room or
after Senator John Kennedy’s
visit to campus
but the bag made Time magazine
and the senator’s visit did not
so that was something
It was a silly wonder to us
He wore it over his head all semester to class
a craft paper bag with two holes for his eyes
The professor, a liberal for his time
had agreed to this experiment
and only he knew the boy’s identity,
but the prof is long dead now
even his books on civil disobedience
are old hat, although today

Every day, the boy wore precisely the same outfit:
grey sweatshirt, matching grey track pants
grey socks, greyed tennis shoes, grey gloves
and the bag

No one ever discovered who he was
He never revealed an inch of skin
except maybe a glint from those
dark eyes behind the two dark holes
in the bag
No one knows why he did it
Even the professor professed ignorance
No one remembers what the class was about
He could have been a celebrity
He could have been someone’s room mate
He could have been more than one person
twins perhaps or similar boys
or a girl although
Or maybe he was
in witness protection
or maybe he needed
the protection of the bag
maybe he was ugly or deformed or
somebody said
the Klan
that was said as a distraction
during my grand slam
I didn’t let it

He could have been God watching us
Santa Claus, Buddha, Elvis
someone truly exotic
or truly plain
within the bag
but he had a certain
long-legged animal grace
a certain difference
from us

We speculated in our
coffee shop
drinking our dark coffee
eating our danishes
and PJs
We all talked about it until
we forgot to talk about it
But we watched him sideways
We tried to follow him
We wondered
It drove us crazy
until it no longer mattered
except for this:
did he use the same bag all semester?
and what became of the bag?

Would it still be around
now, fifty years later?
And why?
I didn’t get it then
I still don’t

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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