WHITE COTTEN T-SHIRT
White cotton T-shirt: an innocent garment then.
It made its way to us from the ward, but we didn't know that.
For us it was the vestment of summer,
whiter than white, shining with whiteness
because it had been washed in blood, but we didn't know that,
and in the cropped sleeve, rolled up tightly
into a cuff, were tucked the cigarettes
also white within their packet, also innocent,
as were white panties, white convertibles,
and the white, white teeth of the lilting smiles
of the young men.
Ignorance makes all things clean.
Our knowledge weighs us down.
We want it gone
so we can put on our white T-shirts
and drive once more through the early dawn
streets with the names we never could
pronounce, but it didn't matter,
over the broken glass and bricks, passing
the wary impoverished faces,
the grins filled with blackening teeth,
the starving dogs and stick children
and the slackened bundles of clothing
that once held men
enjoying the rush of morning air
on our clean, tanned skins,
and the white, white flowers we held out in our fists,
believing — still —that they are flowers of peace.
- Margaret Atwood