Kateema Lee


Kateema Lee is a Washington, D.C. native. Her recent work has been published in print and online journals such as Pirene’s Fountain, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, African American Review, Gargoyle, and others. She is the author of Almost Invisible (Aldrich Press, 2016), and Kateema’s next collection of poems, Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer, is forthcoming (Finishing Line Press, 2018). She is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, a Callaloo fellow, and a participant of The Home School.


Transcript of the Unnamed

"You better bet that if these had been white girls, the police would have solved the cases.” - Evander Spinks, a sister of the first Freeway Phantom victim

I. Destiny

We are told we are

daughters of Ham,

and we carry his sins

in our womb.

Each birth

unearths another,

like us, destined

to be punished.

II. Fate

They were chosen

at random. He saw them

walking. That’s all

it took, a brilliant,

brown body walking

to the store, fragile

as fireflies in wind.

All he had to do

was open his jar,

tilt it ever so slightly

to add another one

to his collection.

III. Loss

In the District on the A bus,
a little girl asks - “if I disappear,
would anyone look for me?”
Her mother,
wearing long cornrows and pride,
tells her child she would break the world,
turn over buses and buildings, knock down
the Big Chair to find her. The girl smiles,
squeezes her mother’s hand, waits
for her turn to pull the cord.

IV. Prayer

Daughters of Ham wearing church hats pray
their babies come home safe, that God bless
the child lost to the streets, the child left
like trash on the side of the road, the child
who is one of four with a mother
who is still a child. They pray on Sundays
as the organ plays, their faith safe between
clasped hands. The say amen and hallelujah.
With the wisdom of oracles, they sing hymns
to unburden their souls and the souls
of those to come, kneeling in prayer, hands
so tight even loss couldn’t break the seal.