The Woman and Her Thang

Wanda Coleman

she kept it in a green felt-lined box
liked to bring it out to show people, especially the men
she was sexually involved with
it was a creature she loved
sometimes when she was alone, she’d take it from its box
caress it gently, lay it on the bed, watch
it glide easily over the blanket
frequently she would feed it a mouse or small rabbit and watch
for days, until the lump in its torso dissolved
it was more than a pet
of course, she never saw herself in it
she felt she had so many more dimensions
she was warm and it was cold
people loved her but they were afraid of it
the only thing they shared was a blackness of skin
and a certain rhythmic motion
one day she was showing it to this man
a very special man
a man she wanted to fall in love with who
seemed to be able to love her, a man different from
the other black men she had known
and so she opened the black green felt box
reached in and took it out
gently she carried it over to the bed
where he lay naked and waiting
she showed it to him proudly
he was appalled, shocked, frightened
he jumped. he scared it.
it took a long time for that lump to go away
many times since she has considered getting rid of it
but after having invested so much time in the thang
she couldn’t bear to throw it away
a friend suggested she sell it
she’s into the process now.

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Wanda Coleman—poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist—was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Coleman was awarded the prestigious 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine from the American Academy of Poets, and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for Mercurochrome. Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems appeared in 2020, edited and introduced by Terrance Hayes. In June 2022, Black Sparrow Press will release Coleman’s Heart First Into This Ruin: The Complete American Sonnets with an introduction by Mahogany L. Browne.

"Wanda Coleman was a great poet, a real in-the-flesh, flesh-eating poet who also happened to be a real black woman. Amid a life of single motherhood, multiple marriages, and multiple jobs that included waitress, medical file clerk, and screenwriter, she made poems. She denounced boredom, cowardice, the status quo. Few poets of any stripe write with as much forthrightness about poverty, about literary ambition, about depression, about our violent, fragile passions."
—Terrance Hayes

“As a poet, mother, Los Angeles native, black woman, essayist, and more, Wanda Coleman is a master of honesty. Her writing is an artifact of a life defined by brilliance, outspokenness, and survival.”
―Courtney Taylor, Slice

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