Two Poems by Lolita Stewart-White

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Dear Miss Jeantel

And I hate how she sings acapella,
how notes ring out of her chest
and blast through the courtroom
like buckshot.

And I hate that she won’t be quiet.
And I wish the words written in cursive
that she can’t read will loop
around her throat and tighten
until she chokes.

And I hate the way she recounts
how Trayvon called his killer
“creepy ass cracka.”

And it hurts when her startled eyes
flit up because she can’t follow the questions.
And it hurts when the almost all-white
jury looks away.

And I want to be her in this moment
wearing a white, cotton dress
with white pearls and white teeth
answering the defense attorney’s questions
white and clean.

And I hate myself for loathing her.
And I hate that my ranch house in the suburbs
that I own with my husband
with palm trees and a pool in the backyard
changes nothing about what white folks
think about us.

the only black woman she can think to compare me to

 

The white woman tells me                                      
I look like Michelle Obama.

A compliment that was pre-naps,                            
before I set the African loose,

before I divorced Dark                                                                                                                  
& Lovely, before I stopped

setting my wooly curls on fire.                            
It was when my locks lay limp

and they were swept to the side                    
and each perfect strand dared

not talk back. It was 2008                              
and the White House was chocolate.

But even then, I ached for teeth,
dreamed of a pick with a fist

to rake the natural Earth                                  
beneath the artificial terrain

that held me and Michelle                                  
hostage.


Photo of Lolita Stewart-White

Photo of Lolita Stewart-White

Lolita Stewart-White is a poet who lives and works in Miami. Her work has appeared in the Iowa Review, Callaloo and Kweli. She was a semi-finalist for the Rattle Poetry competition as well as the Boston Review/Discovery Prize. Ms. Stewart-White has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Betsy Hotel’s Writers Room. Most recently she was the winner of the Paris- American Readers Series where she was invited to New York City to read at the Poets House with Mark Doty and Tomas Q. Morin.