This work was featured in Issue 17:4, Fall 2016 — Slam Issue

Camisha L. Jones

Two Poems

Volume 17:4, Fall 2016 
Slam Issue

 

Michelle Obama’s Easter Dress Speaks

What’s it to you if she wears me more than once?
More than twice? Three times?

She   likes   me. The First Lady of the United States
of America     likes me. Do you know how hard it is
to get a repeat gig ‘round here? There’s not one imposter
in her closet. They all in there braggin’
they “one-of-a-kind” but you know that tho’.
Know they names better than her degrees.
They designer too. From Princeton and Harvard,
not Gurung, Feith, Kors or Wu.

If you must write her as worst or best dressed,
least give her a red carpet to walk on
cause she regal. Got no June Cleaver
hidden in her hips. No back to cave
to your critiques.

She don’t get dressed to make silence look pretty.
Silence costs too much in shades of brown.

Why her bare shoulders offend you?
Don’t you know women   with definition
ain’t never scared to show they muscle?
And her bloodline’s got too much labor in it
to adorn herself with anything but strength.

Why you always comparing her to Jackie O?
Like the title she carries is some knock-off,
dangling too tacky from her bare arms.
Hanging yo’ stale compliments ‘round her neck
as if they are the finest of borrowed pearls,
as if all the character she owns
was handcrafted by Jackie herself.

You. You score First Ladies high only when
they smile wide enough, consent to baking
their way to the White House with Family
Circle Magazine, wear “wife” like a vintage garment
best worn in the kitchen.

Michelle ain’t the help.
Don’t have one apron to wear no how.

You see grace on her dark skin   and call it dingy.
See power of heritage wrapped in the feminine and call it mismatched.
Well, you can keep your too small set of assumptions.

Mattafact, fuck you and the rest of your nosey friends!
Where I’m from we all just happy to hang near her spine,
hug to the contour of her words, sway to the fabric
of the smartest woman we know. The curve of her courage
is always in season, always makes a dress like me look good.

But we know your headlines turn tabloid
So when they start to sayin’ her skirt’s too short,
the wrong color or just right, we in her closet
will comfort ourselves knowing
she a grown ass woman, been dressin’ herself
her entire life and never once needed permission.

 

The Dolezal Affect

dear     rachel     you know
your people            have history

dressing in our things
calling it a good time
or Hallow’s eve
or a team mascot
or a discovered land
or a reality show called history
or whatever y’all not calling
your whiteness today

rachel     your people     have a habit
tricking the trust out of us

your people     have a habit
bending brutalities into
I’m here to help you

you helped yourself
didn’t you     rachel

colored your self
right into a community’s
other side of the fence

painted your skin
with your own shade
of victimhood

braided your hair
with a twisted heritage
picked up at half price

shoved your personal blend of blackness
in the face of every mirror that dare
call     you   racist

you know     rachel
Vogue thinks you wear our pretty
better than we do     rachel

your brand of blackness
is the only costume jewelry
this country ever wears without shame

I think I get it     rachel

my people     know erasure
when we see it     rachel

my people     know the robbery
of white wash

you tried to erase
your own white wash
didn’t you     rachel

took a reserved seat
in the “colored” section
just to prove you weren’t invisible

we see you     rachel
all loud and covered up in your privilege
we see you     rachel
speaking on our behalf without our permission

we see you     rachel            picking up the habit

laying your well-intentioned   hands
on Blackness            to be used     to be possessed

just like     your people     rachel

just like ‘em

 

Camisha L. Jones is the author of the chapbook, Flare (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She is Managing Director at Split This Rock, a national non-profit in DC that cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. Her work is informed by a background leading anti-bias programs and community service initiatives. Jones's poems can be found at Button Poetry, Rogue Agent, pluck!, The Deaf Poetry Society, and The Quarry, Split This Rock's online social justice poetry database. As part of the spoken word community in Richmond, Virginia, she competed with Slam Richmond at the 2013 National Poetry Slam. She is a recipient of a 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship from The Loft Literary Center.