Two Poems by Wanda Coleman

BOMB 67 Spring 1999
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Moon Cherries


smudged fingerprints

cheap water-based paint, lust ten layers
over and over the walls speak
voices clear and without accent tell me
what one so-called friend kept secret
a terrible penalty will be paid for trust
(o and to think i brought it into the
who was the Hecuba who believed good
could rule out genetic predisposition
and nullify cradle-to-grave social abuse?
who was the Hecuba who could



midnights bring on poisoned sleep
spells for success fail
and a wedding day bodes an abiding and
relentless bleeding. downfall will
come with the muted cries of lock-key
his pleasure restricted to the pursuit of
his dope-fed illusions & her deluded
that not only can she overcome adversity,
but bad advice and the jealousy of knaves.
their journey is a shock-ridden careen
through a wasteland of slashed wrists,
amphetamines and unscratchable itches.
their deep-Hollywood story will
come to its predictable ending: the rape of
beauty, a secret bludgeoning, the
death of an angel



but when this grim heart
slips into its grimmer past of
terror shame rage
where broken dreamless nights
are interred, there is no relief
in pretense. fantasy is an affront.
ordinariness was wanted yet denied. what
was never learned in time proved the
undoing. mind be still. the crack-up
intensifies these recollections,
resurrects the flood of a bitter spring


you know it’s your fault you
kept doing it when you should’ve
stopped. you squandered irretrievable
bliss. you. the reason of you the
mirror says you, the highball glass
you, your face floats up from the ash and
smoke at the end of this cigarette.
the clock spun backwards around you.
behind the closed door out you stepped.
under the merciless light you were
these are the dark currents in which
you do the butterfly stroke upstream. you. so
rude & tender & strong. you are a
no, a watcher, no, a warden. you are what
so dearly paid for. you are the gas pedal
to the floor. your beauty is a maker of
myths. on your tongue piss turns to milk

you devastate me



do not remember. forget

a dream among objects

outside that closed door of
the rosewashed room, framed
against the doorway, a Queen Anne’s
the sitter waits in shadow

we did not meet. there was
no entanglement of tongues
i did not experience love
race did matter
and my hymen did not break
you were unconcerned about impressing
anyone, least of all my parents
our stars did not cross
there is nothing to the past

forget my name

The Museum of You


you have now lived long enough to roam
a room filled with your personal leavings

that was your favorite reading chair
with its ottoman on which you propped your feet

it’s difficult to believe that you actually sat
at that sad little desk and did your greatest doings
there. see, the broken drawer’s been repaired.
the scratch you made with those old scissors
seems as fresh as the moment you made it. there’s
that cigarette burn, and that piece of unremovable tape



so many hours your eyes roved that painting.
you entered it. you went
beyond it. it inspired you. it provided escape.
you liked to lean back in your swivel chair
and drink it
in the afternoon light.
you believed there was a psychic connection
between you & the artist



here you are, the perfect likeness
carved in an ebony of rare quality, an abstract nude
the lines of your configuration
fluid & essence-filled



among your artifacts
the hand-painted Australian boomerang
the blue clay owl
the jug of aborted dreams

(you are that forgotten thing
in the basement brought over from Africa, uncrated
and unadmired, sleeping
as you’ve slept for centuries)



oh, the tour too brief. the docent retires. you find yourself
unexpectedly alone at the exit

you make yourself believe that you
are among the lucky,
having lived long enough to run your finger
through your own dust

The poetry and fiction of “LA Blueswoman” Wanda Coleman appear in African Sleeping Sickness, A War of Eyes & Other Stories, and Bathwater Wine (Black Sparrow Press). These poems are from a manuscript in progress.

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Originally published in

BOMB 67, Spring 1999

Featuring interviews with James Hyde, Mary Heilmann, Alan Warner, Scott Spencer, Catherine Gund-Saalfield, Cassandra Wilson, Revenge Effect, Elevator Repair Service, Zoe Wanamaker, and A Day in Brasilia. 

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