February 1, 2010

Lolita Stewart-White

CIVIL RIGHTS COLD CASE #62 (OR THE YELLOW DRESS)

Mattie Green, a domestic worker and mother of five
was killed in 1960 when a dynamite blast ripped
through her home. Her murder was never solved.

Your favorite yellow dress is what you wore the night
before you died. The one with the hand-stitched,
blood-red roses, passed on to you by Miss Cora Lee,
the well-to-do white lady who you did days work
for until she took sick and passed. Sunday evening
you slipped into its cool fabric, after a hard day
of shelling peas, cooking greens, and baking biscuits
for the five miniature versions of yourself. Daddy raved.
Said, “You put your foot in that meal, girl.”
You threw your head back and laughed out loud.
Spun around in the dress that complimented your dusty
red skin. None of us knowing then that it is what we
would bury you in.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
Tribute to African American Poets