Mistaken Identity

Found memories—photos taken before I was born:
Mother and her tiny 1950's waist,

father looking much older—too old for her.
Mother was in her second or third reincarnation

and determined to change the course of her life again.
She would not stay with him long.

I heard he couldn't read or was that someone else
Mother talked about, driving a car but couldn't read

the street signs, memorizing every turn. I guess that
was my father and that's why he didn't write.


painting ourselves c. 1980

(after Ntozake Shange)

working in ebony browns
and earth tones,
we paint portraits of girls
who are not sure what it is to be female
and colored

we read books black poets write
and seeing our reflections there
vanish into the pages,
becoming words, being too ethnic
but trying desperately not to be moody or sad
for these are redundant

looking for ourselves everywhere,
we scrape layers of varnish
trying to see the color inside

ELLEN JUNE WRIGHT was born in England to West Indian parents. She has consulted on guides for three PBS poetry series. She was a finalist in the Gulf Stream 2020 summer poetry contest and is a founding member of Poets of Color virtual poetry workshop.