Wanda Coleman

Born in Watts and raised in South Central, Coleman is a former columnist for Los Angeles Times Magazine. Her essays on her birthplace appear in her collections Native in a Strange Land and The Riot Inside Me (Black Sparrow Books).  Though known for her poetry, she was the first African American to receive an Emmy in daytime television writing (Days of Our Lives), occasionally writes for theatre, and is an award winning short story writer. Her many honors include The 1999 Lenore Marshall Prize (for "Bathwater Wine"), and a nomination for the 2001 National Book Awards (for "Mercurochrome").  She has twice been a finalist for Poet Laureate of California (2005, 2012) and was the first literary fellow for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (COLA, 2003).


A Stonehold

the thief has made me a gift of his night’s booty
somewhere, a daughter discovers her mother’s coral
brooch missing, somewhere, a man recoils at the absence
of his gambling stash. somewhere, a miser rifles
over a vanished ransom in newly minted silver
all this to buy a hotbed of memories
to feed the children fresh-killed lies
to open all the locks on love
forever is a moment we hold in our stomachs
as he brushes the smudge of his kiss
across my lips, i smell the cologne of his fear
a robust and smoky aroma mingled
with the woody musk of courtrooms and the stench of
pain-paved alleyways
i take these things and promise to say mum

Wanda Coleman, “A Stonehold” from Mercurochrome. Copyright © 2001 by Wanda Coleman. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Press (Godine).