Why Girls Walk Home
A Hollywood short film from 1929
So these four flappers get a flat tirenext to the beach—what to dobut shrug off a few pounds of cloth and go
skinny-dipping—which, in 1929,means splashing about in underwearlayered like a nun's habit.
Then this little black girlin a sail-white bonnet, peering outfrom a few shy fingers of rock,
steals their clothes—then, it seems,their car. The women don't care.They just laugh, hook arms and high-step
into the celluloid archivesof my great-grandfather's time.But the girl, that little savant with a jack
who could change a flat tirethat left four white women all thumbs—I imagine her driving off
into some black and white sunset,feet barely reaching the pedals,content to enjoy her trophies off-camera.
When the black woman walks inwith her child, I think about giving upthe best seat in the coffee shop,which happens to be my seat,way in the back by the big windowoverlooking a patch of lawn,bees hauling their fondnessfor the tulips planted along the curb,because yes, isn't it awful—that whole slavery thingwe learned about in textbooks,and shouldn't we show herhow different we are, you and mewith our tornado-bait ancestorsand our manicured haircuts? [End Page 234] The black mother turns to go,toddler on her skirts, as though both seethe danger of lingering too longin the sweet mist of espresso,of stopping to read the newspaperwhile wreathed by our familiar smiles,our strained, toothy kindness. [End Page 235]
Michael Meyerhofer's third book, Damnatio Memoriae (2011), won the Brick Road Poetry Book Contest. His previous books are Blue Collar Eulogies (Steel Toe Books, 2009) and Leaving Iowa (Briery Creek, 2007), winner of the Liam Rector First Book Award. He has also published five chapbooks and is the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. For more information, please visit troublewithhammers.com.