CHAPTER 2 OF THE STORY

the assistant librarian was an old white woman
with wattles hanging to her brittle neck. (a child
of ten, i didn’t think of them as characteristics of
aging. only traits peculiar to her.) i couldn’t help
staring because i’d never noticed them on any
person before—not that close up. i was so amazed by her
pinched magenta mouth and tweezed-then-penciled-in
brown eyebrows and how her bifocals magnified the
bigotry in her eyes as well as those dark amber lashes
her gray eyes policed me thru the stacks like dobermans
she watched me come and go, take books and bring books
she monitored the titles and after a while decided
she’d misjudged her little colored girl
and for a time she tried to apologize in her way. to engage
in small talk. i never answered back. once, she set
special books aside to gain my trust respect smile
i left them untouched
hating her more for that

You once heard The Black Rimbaud –while stoned out of his gourd—ask a 1981 Santa Cruz gathering “Who is Bob Kaufman?” How would you answer “Who is Wanda Coleman?”

I like to think of myself as “the L.A. Blueswoman,” a title conferred upon me years ago by Irish-American poet Tim Joyce. While I love and respect the blues as a musical and literary form, I’m more accurately a jazz fusionist.