by Kenneth Hart
Feature image: Antoine Watteau. Head of a Man, ca. 1718. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I didn’t think of myself as a sex offender
or as someone whose sex was offensive
until I walked across the campus
of the women’s college. I tried to be
as inconspicuous as possible, looking away
when someone jogged past with a scrunchy holding back her hair
and breasts bouncing just a little beneath a sports bra,
making believe I had some business there
by putting a purposeful stride in my step.
I know I carry the chromosome of hatchet murderers and rapists,
it’s no wonder my hands felt like mallets
at the ends of my arms.
After awhile I sat on a bench
and tried to look at the oval pond,
the trees and manicured shrubbery in front of the study hall,
as passing girls gossiped in the late-January sunlight,
some of them tanned from winter break, or slightly heavier
after a month of their mother’s cooking.
So I got up to leave,
making sure my shoulders looked slumped and unathletic,
a little afraid of myself now,
and massively unaware
that one of them might consider my presence
a welcome relief.
Kenneth Hart teaches writing at New York University, and serves as Poetry Editor for The Florida Review. His poems have recently been published in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Hart’s book, Uh Oh Time, was selected by Mark Jarman as winner of the 2007 Anhinga Prize for Poetry.