Guide for Girls Who Walk Alone at Night

Guide for Girls

Who Walk Alone at Night

By Julie Griswold


One: 3,465 steps from home.

Shuffle slowly,

shoulders racked

with nervous confidence.

Don’t look behind you

Don’t smile at strangers.

Who paused under the gaslights,

tinted ochre by sallow rays.


Two: 2,970 steps.

Remember, you must be invisible

another uncertain ghost in this closet,

as dark as the shadows

you knew as a child.

Wriggle and squirm and adjust your dress,

an unwanted beacon.


Three: 2,475 steps.

Smile, damn it!

Smile for the man who slithers

Just a little too close,

A man,who just won’t  go away.


Smile, and maybe, hopefully, oh please,

He’ll disappear like the rest of this city,

consumed by the overbearing crowd.


Four: 1,980 steps.

Strut faster,

clutch your shoulder bag

that echoes

your veins twisting

and the air igniting.

Do not, no, never return

to your apartment

even though,

Sarah left the lights on

and the television screaming.


Five: 1,485 steps.

Instead, stay, dip away,

and duck into a small store

that closes

“In twenty minutes, miss.”

Glance at postcards, t-shirts, keychains.

Pretend to care.


Six: 990 steps.

Catch your breath and

use the $3.99 sunglasses mirror

to check if he’s gone.

Exit swiftly to a chorus of

“Come again!

Have a nice night!”


Seven: 495 steps.

Exhale. Breathe.

Smile. Blink three times.


Eight: Zero steps.

Flutter home.

Julie Griswold lives in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and is a junior at the Tatnall School. She enjoys writing poetry, established her school’s Poetry Club, and co-founded a poetry reading group at Maris Grove Retirement Community. In addition, Julie co-leads her school’s literary magazine and serves on her local library’s Teen Advisory Board. In her free time, Julie enjoys singing, performance poetry, musical theater, tennis, and art.