I find them on the bathroom floor
after my cousin and her boyfriend
have left for Ithaca. They’re green
with gold stripes and they aren’t
mine. I stand there for a long time
considering them. They aren’t
dirty but they’re not exactly clean
either. They’re unwashed.
But they’re not unclean the way
a dead bird is unclean, or the way
an unsanctified thing or an unholy thing
is unclean. I pick them up and do I
smell them? I want to say I smell them.
I think I smell them because
they aren’t unclean and they are undoubtedly
my cousin’s boyfriend’s and he is a good man,
not a holy man, but a good man with a good
job in Ithaca, NY and an excellent beard.
I think about returning them to him,
sending them back in a mailer or small brown box.
And I think about washing them
though they aren’t mine and they aren’t
unclean, only unwashed. And they aren’t
sexy, only colorful. They are more colorful
than all of my underpants put together.
You will want to know I am wearing them
as I write this. Much time has elapsed
since that day in the bathroom. My cousin
and her boyfriend have gotten married.
I have gotten married myself. My wife
has no idea about the provenance
of the green underpants. She thinks they are mine.
She washes them with my underpants
and her underpants. And she puts them all
in a sweet-smelling pile on top of the dresser.
I think there is something a little holy
about a pile of clean underpants on top of a dresser.
I think that putting them away in a drawer
would be like putting your light under a bushel,
like locking your bird up in a cage,
like packing up a good green thing
in a small brown box
and sending it far, far away from you.