After Scout ( in To Kill a Mockingbird)
So, I had an older brother who could qualify as Jem–with dark hair at least and a crinkle of dubiety about the eyes and we lived in what was kind of the South and not far from a road where all whom we called colored back then lived–they probably lived in lots of other places too–but this was the place we knew and it was poor, the houses broken, hung with crack-slat wood, dark-windowed, and when they de-segregated the schools, I was determined to be, you know, Scout-like, Atticus-like, and also like JFK==noble, right and true, meaning welcoming, meaning especially nice–cause I was pretty darn sure it would be hard to walk down from that road (it was called St. Barnabas) to our new beige brick school with its white and pink mosaics along the side, and so I did my best, and maybe because of that, or maybe not, a group of black boys from my class followed me home one day, and they were boys – we were nine or ten back then–my neighborhood the opposite direction from St. Barnabas, with their arms cartwheeling legs, and laughing tattered strut, so wild, I think, because they were nervous–I sure was–not just because their mocking me was so raucous, neon-toothed, but because as our way deepened down my street, I realized that I’d never seen a colored person there my whole life long, except for a worker maybe–and Kevin who was a beautiful coffee brown with eyes even more crinkly than my brother’s always seemed the leader, so I turned, though I’d been pretending they weren’t following me, and told him maybe they’d better get home.
But Earl, who was tall and skinny and the darkest person I’d ever seen, with a sweet big-curvy smile that beamed like a moon at night, even with his mouth closed, just twisted while Kevin thought, and grabbed out of my book bag, the handle sticking out, my blue plastic hairbrush, and after one froze beam, as if he didn’t know what he dared, patted it upon the top of his short black nap, then stroke stroke stroked, then held it way up high as if I’d try to reach for it, though I don’t know that I did try, ‘cause we were in my next door neighbor’s yard by this time, the lawn they kept mowed short, right next to a groomed magnolia, and it wasn’t a yard people walked across, there was a narrow sidewalk to the door, a white-sloped curb upon the street, and a part of me–all that niceness–just felt punctured, sunken flat, because I wasn’t actually sure whether I could use that brush again, while another part arched crazily with fear — for them–and shock–for me–having never thought of my street in just this way, as either a place where they might come, or a place they might be hurt, glad too suddenly that my brother wasn’t there, that no one was, no one who might see/do something different than me, though there was sure nothing much I could think of–and then they turned back, Earl tossing my hairbrush down, and I just stood there.
The bristles stuck up from the mown lawn in rows of clear knobbed spikes, like some strange imitation grass, something dropped by, you know, a spaceship, on reconnaissance.
This is a draft prose poem written for Kerry O’Connor’s prompt on With Real Toads, to come up with something relating to Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my favorite books and movies even as a little kid; my admiration for it has not lessened with age.