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The Year I Was Conspicuous

How eyes would track me on the street, in the store.
How people would pause, double take,
a cluster of faces looking on as I asked
for apples or air mail envelopes.

Sometimes a cautious hand reaching out
to touch my arm, my hair.
Sometimes, a crowd
surrounding me, mouths open, fingers pointing.

Sometimes, one or two in the crowd forgot
that behind my blue eyes, the high bridge of my nose,
my tongue with its failure to speak
as they spoke, I
was there,
looking back.
Those times, their stares
were the stares of people watching TV.
When I gestured, smiled, tried words I knew
were their own,
they startled, drew away.

I learned the weight
of being watched.
I grew tired.
By the end of the year, I was brain-heavy,
stone-faced.

But it was only
one year.
And the eyes on me were only
curious.

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