GIRL IN THE RED HOODIE By Yena Sharma Purmasir


Not the woods, but the sidewalk. A house under construction,
a man who always said good morning. This was in the fall
and I gripped the straps of my backpack, ducked my head,
smiled as soon as I was out of sight.

Soon it was winter and by then, the broken home was engulfed
by white, white snow. Yes, the pavement was still uneven,
still cracked, but I walked like i was walking in a dream.

He wasn’t by the window he wasn’t by the window
I walked passed there every goddamn day and I never saw him
by the window.

In the spring, all the old animals came back, took claim of the city.
Squirrels and rats, beady eyes, bushy tails, coming right up
to my little girl feet.

In the spring, the men came out and stood at the corner,
watching me walk, sticking their heads out of cars. Sometimes
they said things and other times, they just stared, hungry,

In the spring, that house came alive again: pick-up trucks and
a whirring battery. That one lone construction worker, waiting outside
the gate. Hello, he said. Smile, he said. Where are you going, he said.

To work, I said. Away, I said. Goodbye, I said.

My boss old enough to be my grandmother.
Her kind face and wrinkled smile.
Honey, she said. Be careful, she said.

In this version, my grandmother lives. In this version, the wolf doesn’t eat.
In this version, he licks at his lips and sharpens his teeth.
Nothing happens in this version. When I tell you this version,
I say over and over again that at least nothing happened.

But he came out of his house. But he waited for me in the evenings.
But he found a glass door and pressed it up against my face.
But he laughed until I laughed. But he touched me without touching me.
But I couldn’t walk passed that house for weeks

had to take other paths and dodge leers from strange monsters.

At least my wolf was just a wolf. At least I knew the story of
how he died.

This is what I told my boss-grandmother, who worries even still,
says she can’t imagine how I stroll passed that place that is not even a home.
Can’t I wait for the woodcutter? He should be here by now and once he is,
this stone belly will be sliced.

Oh no, no no no. Not in this version, not this time. I walk
where I want to walk, even if something might happen to me.
Something has already happened to me.
I told her, I told her, something has happened to me.

What a big mouth I have, what a sweet voice I have.

By Yena Sharma Purmasir


Yena Sharma Purmasir is a poet author from New York City. She was the Queens Teen Poet Laureate for the 2010-2011 academic year. Her first book of poetry, Until I Learned What It Meant, was published by Where Are You Press in 2013. When I’m Not There, her second book of poetry, was published in 2016. Purmasir graduated from Swarthmore College in 2014 with a major in Psychology and minors in English Literature and Religion Studies. She was awarded the Chuck James Literary Prize from Swarthmore College’s Black Cultural Center. She believes in the power of hard work, second chances, and, above all, love.

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