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.