‘Tis Morning Makes Mother a Killer

Wanda Coleman


the day grinds its way slowly into her back/ a bad
mattress stiffens her jaw

it is the mindless banalities that pass as conversation
between co-workers

her paycheck spread too thin across the bread of
weeks; too much gristle and bone and not enough


meatless meals of beans and corn bread/nights
in the electronic arms of the tube

mean as a bear

carrying groceries home in the rain in shoes
twice resoled and feverish with flu

it is the early dawn

mocking her unfinished efforts; unpaid bills,
unanswered letters, unironed clothes


of pain in her face left by time; the fickle high of it
facing the mirror of black flesh

mean as mean can

pushed to the floor but max is not max enough
no power/out of control/anxiety

it is the sun illuminating cobwebs

that strips her of her haunted beauty; reveals
the hag at her desperate hour

children beware

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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, becoming the first African-American woman to ever win the prize, and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for MercurochromeWicked Enchantment: Selected Poems is the first new collection of her work since her death in 2013.

"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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