Wanda Coleman

Ad Nauseam
     -After Karl Shapiro

My soul stands at the window of my success
And I ten thousand deaths away;
My days are filled with sleep-stealing stress
Salt soaks for feet, a bitter remedy.
Let the planet crack for the waste dead.

My unselfish youth, my books with tattered edge,
knowledge is my gaze down ghetto streets.
Boys who dared the White world’s ledge,
Girls pregnant with a sullen hope, yet sweet.
Let the planet crack for the wasted dead.

My night remains night, my night his day.
So we lie down, part my thighs.
The love burns deep, the stars give way.
The come brings down the firmament.
Let the planet crack, for the wasted die.

Grief is now my way of foot of hand of heart.
A gallow’s laughter marks my stride;
My face grown hard like ebony quartz,
My bloodshot eyes at dawn must ride.
Let the planet crack for the wasted dead.

The Unexpressed
     - After Randall Jarrell

One looks and looks from behind the door
the dark child frightened by daylight.
What is unseen still massacres.
Nothing is safe. There are devil winds and
giant eyeballs and walking corpses dripping
gray in the dull ending of a summer’s day.

Outside the door, the warped
distortion of mundane things
deceives the blinking watcher.
Utility poles spook the blue,
evergreens offer sinister shade—
a suspect neighborhood—that
to the childish one is plain.
Beyond the door, the passing
strangers slide through, swiftly
toward a foreign realm to joust
the tyranny of time, the dangers
to their lives ill-perceived, the
mangler’s hands alabaster

and thick there’s quick murder
awaiting them in unmade beds.
Beyond the door, intruders prowl
and thieves who’ll snatch one’s
tonsils out. Ogres and swamp goblins
wiggle and slurp, a true bestiary
of brutes. Cookies and gingerbread
signal certain doom. The spider woman
draped in stars will suffocate
unwary travelers in her wicked web.
Beware! They’re going to get you
in the twinkle of a rhyme. This
child-fear, not unlike the knot of woe
that ruins the tummy and the rug.
It’s out there. Behind everything.
Malevolent, nefarious, corrupt.