“T-Shirts” by Steve Williams, published in Keeping it Weird – Stories & Poems of Portland, Oregon, released on Oct 30, 2014 by The Poetry Box
I want to ask the knobby man
walking by the monkey house
with the ‘Porn Star’ t-shirt –
the man with shorts two sizes too large
billowing over white socks
and brown sandals,
what he wore yesterday.
I want to ask the screaming chimpanzees
throwing shit our direction
if they were ever in one of his movies.
I want to ask the man with wire rim glasses
poking out from under his corduroy cap
walking silently through the innumerable
“Oh my Gods” and the occasional
“I’d ask for my money back,”
If we’re on Candid Camera.
It never occurs to me to ask if he has any kids,
where his hometown might be,
or if he can tell me his real name.
I want to ask the porn star
outside the orangutan viewing area
if he knows Ellie like I know Ellie.
She is sitting patiently inside, intent on watching him
watch her. She motions him closer, yawns,
then waves him aside like she’s ready
for the next page of the picture book
I held out for her only yesterday.
Now, her eyes fixed on the shirts
in a congress of plump high schoolers
that announce “Pleased to eat you.”
and “Tourist from 2512.”
I want to ask Ellie if she can read.