Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson


Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson is an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Río Grande Review, and Sugar House Review, among others. She’s an English instructor and lives in Joliet, IL.


Ode to the White Lady Who Asked to Touch My Hair

Your hands! The busyness of them! Flitting to and fro
as cool as hummingbirds. Hungry and blithe, they move quickly,
lapping up the nectar in each curl: coconut and olive oil.

You pull away and your skin is slick with grease—
anointed. Those blessed hands! They weren’t prepared for this
baptism. How my coils embraced your chalky fingertips,

leaving them wet and glistening. How the smell of my honey
will be under your nails for days. How for weeks you’ll
sigh and wonder why your palms are slippery as you slide

your hands across the surface of your unfettered white body.
All of this before I even have the chance to grant permission—
while the dust of your request still lingers in the air. White lady,

this ode is not really for you, but for every wild and native curl
that hates the hot house, thriving in the meadow of my afro:
those African daisies! those black-eyed Susans! those forget-me-nots
and morning glories!