Yolanda Pruitt

This is how you knew you were loved

 your mama was tortillas

dipped in honey in june.

a firm orange tomato

eaten whole with salt.

she was c-notes folded sharp as letters

tucked into your palm,

an apology.

she was a Cadillac

an Impala

a rusted Chevy pickup

with a reckless man at the wheel.

she was sweet tea

steeped by a sun

only her mother’s western hands

knew how to pull so close

to the land.

even when she left you,

you knew love

was your big mama’s trailer.

& the nook of your grandmother’s lap

In the Heat of The Night

and avocados spooned straight

out of their skins.

your daddy was Gunsmoke.

a Lonesome Dove.

a televangelist,

a holiness church.
the black “Marlboro Man”.

Old Spice.

a cigarette, smoked

down to the filter,

a tall can of Red Dog,

a 40oz Mickey’s Malt Liquor,


you never saw him do nothing

but hold

liquor like a good woman,

never as gentle planned.

& even then, you knew love

was white rice

with sugar and butter,

& beans sorted & soaked


it was fingertips burned numb,

measuring from memory.

flour caked under cuticles

& fried chicken cooling

on Sunday’s paper.

it was calloused palms,

a wood-handled knife,

& potatoes peeled, the skins

curling and coiling

away from the blade.


Yolanda Pruitt is a poet born and raised in South Phoenix, Arizona. She is the youngest child and only daughter of her father, who is a cook, custodian and bus driver. In 2010 she moved to Madison, WI to attend UW-Madison as a recipient of the First Wave Urban Arts Scholarship. In 2013, out of the writing workshops she participated in under the scholarship program, she produced and published a chapbook called Black November, a memoir of poems grappling with the absence and subsequent death of her mother, familial addiction and other childhood trauma. These themes, which have shaped her life, are what compelled her to begin writing poetry in her early teens and she hopes to inspire young black and brown women to view their art as a form of autonomy, to tell their own stories and their own words. She is currently teaching Special Education in Minneapolis and working on her next project.