kimberly shorter

Writer. Teacher. Breakfast Food Maker.

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“HATTIE MCDANIEL ARRIVES AT COCONUT GROVE”by Rita Dove
late, in aqua and ermine, gardeniasscaling her left sleeve in a spasm of scent,her gloves white, her smile chastened, purse giddywith stars and rhinestones clipped to her brilliantined hairon her free arm that fine Negro,Mr. Wonderful Smith.
It’s the day that isn’t, February 29th,at the end of the shortest month of the year-and the sh*****st, too, everywhereexcept Hollywood, California,where the maid can wear mink and still be a maid,bobbing her bandaged head and cursingthe white folks under her breath as she smilesand shoos their silly daughtersin from the night dew … what can she bethinking of, striding into the ballroomwhere no black face has ever showed itselfexcept above a serving tray?
Hi-Hat-Hattie, Mama Mac, Her Haughtiness,The “little lady” from Showboat whose nameBing forgot, Beulah & Bertha & Malena& Carrie & Violet & Cynthia & Fidelia,one half of the Dark Barrymores —dear Mammy we can’t help but hug you crawl intoyour generous lap tease youwith arch innuendo so we can feel thatmuch more wicked and youthfuland sleek but oh what
we forgot: the four husbands, the phantompregnancy, your famous parties, your celebratedice box cake. Your giggle above the red petticoat’s rustleblack girl and white girl walking hand in handdown the railroad tracksin Kansas City, six years old.The man advised you, nowthat you were famous, to “begin eliminating”your more “common” acquaintancesand your reply (catching him squarein the eye): “That’s a good idea.I’ll start right now by eliminating you.”
Is she or isn’t she? Three million dishes,a truckload of aprons and headrags later, and hereyou are: poised, between husbandsand factions, no corset wide enoughto hold you in, your huge face a dark moon splitby that spontaneous smile — your trademark,your curse. No matter, Hattie: It’s a long beautiful walkinto that flower-smothered standing ovation,so go onand make them wait.

“HATTIE MCDANIEL ARRIVES AT COCONUT GROVE”
by Rita Dove

late, in aqua and ermine, gardenias
scaling her left sleeve in a spasm of scent,
her gloves white, her smile chastened, purse giddy
with stars and rhinestones clipped to her brilliantined hair
on her free arm that fine Negro,
Mr. Wonderful Smith.

It’s the day that isn’t, February 29th,
at the end of the shortest month of the year-
and the sh*****st, too, everywhere
except Hollywood, California,
where the maid can wear mink and still be a maid,
bobbing her bandaged head and cursing
the white folks under her breath as she smiles
and shoos their silly daughters
in from the night dew … what can she be
thinking of, striding into the ballroom
where no black face has ever showed itself
except above a serving tray?

Hi-Hat-Hattie, Mama Mac, Her Haughtiness,
The “little lady” from Showboat whose name
Bing forgot, Beulah & Bertha & Malena
& Carrie & Violet & Cynthia & Fidelia,
one half of the Dark Barrymores —
dear Mammy we can’t help but hug you crawl into
your generous lap tease you
with arch innuendo so we can feel that
much more wicked and youthful
and sleek but oh what

we forgot: the four husbands, the phantom
pregnancy, your famous parties, your celebrated
ice box cake. Your giggle above the red petticoat’s rustle
black girl and white girl walking hand in hand
down the railroad tracks
in Kansas City, six years old.
The man advised you, now
that you were famous, to “begin eliminating”
your more “common” acquaintances
and your reply (catching him square
in the eye): “That’s a good idea.
I’ll start right now by eliminating you.”

Is she or isn’t she? Three million dishes,
a truckload of aprons and headrags later, and here
you are: poised, between husbands
and factions, no corset wide enough
to hold you in, your huge face a dark moon split
by that spontaneous smile — your trademark,
your curse. No matter, Hattie: It’s a long beautiful walk
into that flower-smothered standing ovation,
so go on
and make them wait.

Filed under Hattie McDaniel Oscar Gone With the Wind Rita Dove African American History Month Black History Month poet poetry poem Mammie Best Supporting Actress Poet Laureate

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