go straight there. don’t stop. don’t talk to nobody.
stay away from those boys. come right back.
a dripping sticky moistness attacks her hairline,
dark visage, patent leather-shiny and dewy damp.
an adventuresome spirit whispers a daring detour,
safety secured by villagers, seen and unseen.
just two doors away, inside the front porch of her cherry red bungalow
mrs. jones languishes alone, chatting to no one. inviting her up the steps
the neighbor presents ice-cold, wonderfully-sweet lemonade in a tall, sweaty glass.
daring to hope for more, the girl settles on the steps, grins, and mops her oily wet brow.
all orange hair and scarlet lipstick, mrs. jones waves a pale, delicate hand.
go along now. i’m going in for my nap.
across the narrow street
the pony-tailed twins beckon from their shady porch.
wanna watch bandstand with us?
standing by the screen door,
the girl pretends to watch fleeting shadows dance on the small black and white screen.
instead she steals sly glances as the suave older brother improvises his own nimble steps.
sashaying off, she relishes the momentary freedom.
energetic skipping propels her past a lively game of jacks at the flournoys.
nosey aunt dora, on her perch, points a gnarled finger and nods.
the girl prances on, sweat rivulets streaming down her back.
as the sun parades across the afternoon sky,
chocolate- brown, ginger- tan, and golden-skinned boys
crack bats and race around the verdant grassy field.
she hurries along,
nodding at the misters and missuses
who throw up their arms in greeting.
afternoon ma’am; afternoon sir.
yes ma’am, i’m jennie’s girl.
the forbidden high school boys clustered by the market
ignore her furtive admiration.
she quickens the pace.
until her breathless arrival at nana jen’s threshhold.
rapid, anxious knocking hurries nana to the door.
embarrassed, the girl stutters the message.
nana jen motions her inside,
presses tightly-wadded bills into her hot palms,
and folds her fingers around them.
take this to your ma. don’t talk to nobody. go straight home .
she dashes through the short-cuts,
scurries past two empty lots,
darts along a worn dirt path near the neighborhood vegetable garden,
and crosses the street to home.
her mother stands,
right foot beating a steady rhythm against the sidewalk,
one hand on hip,