american sonnets 23


American Sonnet 23
Wanda Coleman

after Akhmatova
here’s to my ruined curbless urban psyche/the spent
tempest fleeing the golden rain of cruel day
wandering star-starved punched-out bleached-blind

here’s to the poison i greedily consume as sustenance
to the killer humdrum of my life without fulfillment
my love’s isolation, my nation and me – our bickerings

i drink the cold ugly and funky negro divas who
cast me down their death-dealing amused eyes
delighting in my writhing/castration/made numb
in this world – made brutal made coarse made jealous of
they who have usurped and commodified god

here’s to

my uncompromising vision and to the young blood who
tells me i carry the broom like a cross

Photo by Daniele Colucci on Unsplash

black-handed curse


Black-Handed Curse
Wanda Coleman

May the sky widen between your eyes
and a storm twist across your thoughts.

May the false images you create devour all you
give birth to. May the false images you worship obscure love.

May you look in the mirror and see the malignancy.

May you writhe in dishonor. May you writhe hearing the voices
of those you have dishonored. May you writhe knowing the
whole of the pain you’ve caused others.

May the limitations you impose on those more gifted
than yourself steal the beats of your heart.

May you be kept out of the heaven
from which you have kept others.

May no one hear your last words.
May a small rodent eat your last words.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash


moon cherries


Moon Cherries
Wanda Coleman


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

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash


requiem for a nest


Requiem for a Nest

Wanda Coleman

the winged thang built her dream palace
amid the fine green eyes of a sheltering bough
she did not know it was urban turf
disguised as serenely delusionally rural
nor did she know the neighborhood was rife
with slant-mawed felines and those long-taloned
swoopers of prey. she was ignorant of the acidity & oil
that slowly polluted the earth, and was never
to detect the serpent coiled one strong limb below
following her nature she flitted and dove
for whatever blades twigs and mud
could be found under the humming blue
and created a hatchery for her spawn
not knowing all were doomed


Photo by bennett tobias on Unsplash