If there is underwear, examine it closely

How To Read A Poem

by Al Zolynas

Come at it
the way you would
a pile of clothes on an empty beach at dawn.
Circle it slowly.
Hold the pieces up one by one.
Be a cop; ask questions.

If there are pockets, go through them.
The owner won't notice.
He is probably dead.
Are there any jewels? Fake? Real?
If there are footprints in the sand, where
do they lead? If to water,
don't jump to conclusions.
Have your men walk both ways
down the beach to check for prints leading out.

Is there underwear?
A pile of clothes on a beach
with no underwear is immediately suspect.
It could well be an inauthentic pile.

If there is underwear
examine it closely.  Be neither
embarrassed nor disgusted
by the stains.  If you find
a pair of jockeys and a brassiere,
be on guard, be suspicious.
It could be a false lead.  Remember
there is more here than meets the eye.

Pay close attention to labels,
but draw your conclusions
shrewdly, tentatively.  Be on the lookout
for patterns and combinations
out of the ordinary: Robert Hall
and Florsheim, pleated trousers
and cowboy boots, neckties and baseball caps.
These all point to a mind capable of great whimsy.

Always remember your basic assumption:
You can tell a man from the clothes he wears,
but only while he wears them.
While you are examining his clothes,
the owner may be riding in
on the crest of a wave
twenty miles down the coast, smiling
and mouthing the sound of his new name.

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