To the White Woman…

Poetry / Simone Person

:: To the White Woman with the Tiny Backpack in Indiana Who Interrupted Me and a Friend to Ask if We Knew This Was a Non-Smoking Campus as I’m Halfway through a Cigarette ::

Yes, we knew, as surely as your Tevas know the way to the closest
food co-op. There is so little for me here. So little of me
here. So much time wasted crafting myself into edges, of flossing 
barbs through my teeth, and braiding razor blades in my hair 
just to be able to walk down the street. Just to smoke in peace
on the non-smoking campus I was born too broke and not
enough enough to even be assumed to attend. I don’t 
expect you to understand what it feels like here 
in Indiana, how the footsteps behind me on my walks home
are louder, that every car passing feels sinister. There’s less
sunlight every day. Fewer reasons that seem to warrant leaving bed. 
White people are always asking me questions we both know
the answers to, trying to string me up and drag me behind sentences.
And if this was the first time a white person talked at me 
like I was stupid, maybe my mouth wouldn’t have spit nails
so quick, rattling your tiny backpack, and transforming you
into afraid and me into the spook you knew I was anyways.


From the writer

:: Account ::

As a fat, queer, Black woman growing up in the Midwest, I’ve always felt out of place in my predominately white schools and towns. After moving to an even more racially homogeneous state for graduate school, that feeling of perpetual dislocation intensified, and peaked after leaving my abusive partner in the beginning of the year.

These poems are part of a larger project titled Smoke-Girl, which processes intimate partner violence and rape, especially the shame, self-blame, and anger. This project also focuses on how often Black women are seen as disposable and as threats, and how Black women and our lives, experiences, and traumas are usually infantilized and seen as inferior, or even non-existent, compared to our white and non-Black counterparts.

My work—both prose and poetry—is often drawn from my own experiences and explores the ways dislocation and trauma intersect, especially focusing on the confusing, contradictory, and unsavory emotions that arise at that intersection. I want my work to push back against the Strong Black Woman tropes, to showcase that Black women can be vulnerable, mentally ill, feel pain, and that we’re still here with any and all confusing, contradictory, and unsavory emotions despite the odds.


Simone Person grew up in Michigan and Toledo, Ohio, and is a dual MFA/MA in Fiction and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Puerto del Sol, Kweli Journal, among others, and has been anthologized in Crab Fat Magazine: Best of Year Three. She sporadically uses Twitter and Instagram at @princxporkchop.