(a poem about mothering. in honor of my late grandmother, patsy johnson, who made sure i didn’t walk through this life uncovered after my mother passed away.)

sunlight is a cruel authority.
my bones whisper one word:
then the ocean-tide
of your sleeping breath.
the heartbeat of you.
i defy my skeleton’s
seductive stasis.
i move.
it does not matter that this
isn’t joy.
this is the slick-stout medicine
of what is.

knees groan, feet swell,
and the warm architecture
of your forehead
instructs me: move.
this is no whimsical aching
in the blood.
no sweet thing.
this is the unquivering jawline
of a million women,
comprising the hand of God.
this, hard and simple.
because you are here,
i move.

melodies and play

[this is an impromptu poem i wrote during a service on creativity at all souls unitarian universalist church in tulsa, ok. i wrote the piece during that service, interspersing words and images therein, and then read the finished piece as the closing remarks. i hope you enjoy reading it as much as i enjoyed writing it!]

…and here is our standing


to come and play –

sleep has released us from its embrace

we have rolled lazily, groggily,

inventively into this day

spoons clink in coffee cups,

saxophones trade notes

with piano keys,

babies cry, dogs bark in the distance,

earth-breath of wind tickles the leaves.

we are part of the improvisational

symphony of living-

we paint it:

in ketchup on dinner plates,

in doodles in meeting agendas,

in finger traces across a lover’s cheek.

“the most elemental and in most

aspects of our being…”

connect us like a great

guitar string of consciousness

one to another, one in another,

we share in melodies of deep silence

and raucous laughter.

we dance it:

walking down the street,

stumbling tiredly into the supermarket,

hugging our loved ones.

if only we could see ourselves

in each moment

weaving and whittling new worlds

from the organic matter

of our oneness.

what color is your courage?

how will you choreograph

the dance of your

every single day?

build a fire in the form of memory

and let it guide us to new truths.

this is the day we’ve been given,

and the invitation is infinite.

you are never early or late,

the time is always now.


come and play.

girls while

while you are young,
be the first to find your body.
– arcs
– thresholds
– creases
– weeping
study and know
your flesh,
all goldenrod and godwrought.
let a man
discover it for you,
and you are sentenced
to years
of un-enslaving yourself
from his breath
his hands
the version of you he craves –
better to offer a map
of your borders, clearly drawn.
make him thank you
for every skin-trail
he is allowed
to walk

no more like this

where your breath is my bread
where my back is your
riverbed constant
my fingers your ribcage
my teeth your lucky
and i am immured in silent debt
a mortgage i pay to exist
next to you:
my blood your liquor
my wounds your airbnb
got at a steal
my story your:
-word bank
-dinner debate
-SEO content
-incipit receipt
my language your rendered fat
where i am scissors
as you bear indifferent
consistent witness
i believe i am done
being a good woman


(happy valentine’s day! i’m actually not cynical about love [anymore] but i genuinely like this poem. i’d love to hear your thoughts on it! )


wearing innuendo

blunt as old blades


as a way of flirting

that i should write poems

for them:

smiles wide as memory,

voices winking seduction.

they do not know

how their blood will taste

flooding underside of tongue.

they do not know

my poems are my weeping

my ancestors

my vulgar spilling menses

my alchemic reckoning.

they have never smelled

their flesh

curling under flames

like a heavy lover,

the sweetness

of their bones smoking to soot,

and i do not tell them


i say, ‘i will show you

the man for whom

i wrote many poems.

ask him when you meet him.’

i say, ‘ask him what

he lost in the fire.

ask him the fire’s name.’


childhood: the frailest thing we all fling.

a memory catalog, except all is symbolic.

divine sweet metaphorical moments and spirit-

biting bald sadnesses.

the only thing for which you can express

your dislike by saying it doesn’t exist.

never a dull moment.

there had to be,

but who remembers.

your childhood sat on a swing one day

and nothing much happened.

no bullies hurling a small body bloody akimbo.

no reaching treetops with sneaker-clad kicking feet.

just swinging.

why recall that when your adulthood

demands an archetype

of impermanence, of longing?

so many thousand leg-pumps away

from simplicity.

adulthood insists:

no kid on a swing is JUST a kid on a swing.

by 22 we’ve forgotten

how to leave anything to itself.


my childhood played with bugs,

favored the word “grody” over “gross.”

how many times did your childhood skin her knee?

how many times the scab only a scab?

did she eat it?

mine, maybe,

poked at tender dermises,

made a game of not letting a cut heal.

what metaphor there?

vote now on your phones.

this is the bored curiosity to which i’ll assign

all the relevance I wish was stored

in laundry days, direct deposits

(a kind of magic that makes my money a ghost)

or that time the boy you crushed so hard on

felt you up on a church pew

while two other youth groupers

hid, heard you slurp, pant,

confess virginity –

the ridicule a ritual,

you’ll later determine,

to prepare you for what adult thing?

almost any. from political convictions

to full-time employment

what if some shiny announcer

popped up shitgrinning at each

ambivalent spot in your young life,

snapped, “remember kids,

this might mean something someday!”

would anything change?

traumatize? metastasize?

would that girl you were,

skeakerfooted and scratched somewhere


stiffen and drag her leg muscles to a stop

or just swing anyway?

writing prompt fun

my facebook friends enjoyed this, and i got more responses than i anticipated. (i didn’t anticipate any.)

here is the prompt: “write about your body as a house. describe the exterior and interior. what furnishings? what residents?”

my own response:

this front porch 
a dilapidated institution
of soft love and hard story
complete with creaky swing
and tiny table 
with books and quartz
to repel or call as needed, 
inside the floorboards
groan greeting
windows wide open
something’s in the oven
smelling like cinnamon 
ready to be shared
so sit. all furniture
is clean and well-worn here
ready to hold you.
share a secret or two
plenty of wooden boxes
and mason jars
on hand 
for keeping truth fresh

poem: what i’m afraid of

(sidenote: a 19-item list, hoohoo!)



that dream
where she walks into a blank room
sees me lying face down
on a bald concrete floor
says one word:

eternity in the hollow
absence of a lover’s

shadow. Swallow. Silence.

here lies mia iyanna wright.
age __. loving mother.
decent teacher. died of ‘almost.’

never being left alone.

always being left alone.

Slice open a wound,
sew it up again. Exacto
blade. Slash open
a wound, sew it
up again.
Paring knife. Saw open a wound
sew it up again.
Vegetable peeler
Pull back dark
lips of wound sew it up again.

wake up one morning
yawn at sun
surprise find mouth stuffed
full of bloody thread.

finger frozen
in the curl
of cradling a
fucking cell phone

dying & leaving my daughter
to wade in the tepid puddle
of excuses we call family

the way my mother left me



constantly looked at
but never seen

the hungry translucent fingers
of white women

that thing me they’re
always reaching for –
whatever it is

naked invertebrates
worming in
like tongues of memory
draining my blood

the cold indifference
of hospitals and black men

walking into a room
and finding me already there
staring back at myself,

sound I make

they like the sound I make
when I break.
ripe tendons
tend to tune
the snap
of limbs

this is what
I remember about lovemaking
with men:
a kind of wheezing
in the chest that rolls
over mine
throats burn
when they smell my blood

once pulled,
there is a split second
in which they look
almost human
nuzzling my hollows
soft ’til saliva
saves their mouths
from need of me

eyes click open.
they are animal again
how to leave the carcass
once it is cleaned

why 19 poems?

my favorite number is 19. that’s a random factoid, not an answer. all right.

i have a problem with dwelling on things.

one of my professors told me during my mfa days that it’s sometimes necessary to “write through” whatever your mind keeps obsessing about. can’t stop thinking about your mother? write mother poems. just write tons of mother poems until you’re sick of them and cannot bear to write another one.

i took that advice. i started using the arbitrary (though inexplicably loved) number 19 to (attempt to) cure my dwelling habit. “oh, you’re dwelling on that one sad experience from when you were five? write 19 poems about it.”

which, of course, i never can.

so 19, for me, has come to represent getting real and moving on.

that’s what i’ve decided. like, just now.