Editor’s Note: Lolita Stewart-White was selected by Sonia Sanchez as a finalist for Boston Review’s 2021 Annual Poetry Contest. Due to their complex formatting, we recommend reading these poems on a computer. 

Night has brought this offering
Scent of his whiskey skin
Dear Diaspora:
I am black balm soothing
I am black balm soothing
I am black balm soothing
A smoke prayer
Burn of amen in our throats
Bloodline dope like kinfolk passed down
Thick of our loveliness
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for
My lover unfurls his Union Blue
I turn the cool side of my finger north
I turn the cool side of
my finger north. Defiance
is a traveling pass
that glitters in my back pocket.
My skin drinks
the unfettered flame of first light.
I’m history’s half shadow.
Half my lover’s sway stashed
away in Freedman’s Bank.
Our bodies r black refrains sucked
from the femur of Dinknesh. I glimpse
nappy speckles of ourselves.
We juba in the black
unpen the night &
let our seams glimmer. We
don’t need permission
to touch.
Black Americans are sleeping an hour less than any other racial group.
That’s an entire night’s sleep lost every week.
—CBS Sunday Morning, 2021
My mouth is hush
I want to fly           before
Scatman screams
The rope catches my throat
No one shines except sisters & brothers
who cross over elders
Yanked                                           from the riverbank
Someday I won’t be Monday
Some night I’ll sleep and won’t
wake up
My worries
scrawled on
How skin smells when it’s set on fire
How                high-yella      glows
This isn’t a plea
Free my teeth please
where salt & rep- a-ra-tions