“The Girls On Josephine Street” by Melissa McEwen

Melissa McEwen


Josephine Street is notorious.
Everybody says it’s the street
where the fast girls hang,
so when the bus driver yells
“Josephine Street,” everybody waits
to see who gets off and almost
always it’s the loud mouth girls
in the way back. The quiet fast ones
get off on the next block and walk

I stared at them in wonder
whenever my father drove down
Josephine Street to get to Mr. Pizza.
My mother would say, “Why can’t you just go
and get pizza from somewhere ‘round here?”
“Those places got nothing
on Mr. Pizza,” said my father.
So we’d drive down and through Josephine
Street, just for pizza. I’d be in
the back seat (my legs tucked beneath me)
looking out, imagining
those high school girls slipping
out of windows, struggling

out of jeans, sliding beneath boys. I wanted
to wiggle my way out of jeans, wiggle
my way beneath dancing boys with gold
teeth and minds filled with bad boy schemes. Hungry

for freedom, I wanted to taste, smack my lips
on the fruits of independence. I wanted to be fast like
the Spanos sisters riding their 10-speeds down
Josephine Street, hair flying behind them,
their shorts so short,
their sentences filled with street slang
and names of boys.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
Tribute to African American Poets


Melissa McEwen: “A late bloomer, still blooming, I wrote ‘The Girls on Josephine Street’ when I was in college but visiting back home. I remember walking down the streets in my old neighborhood and seeing the high school girls so carefree with the boys (no parents around, no inhibitions). The envy I felt as a youth came rushing back and a poem came rushing forth.”

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