By WANDA COLEMAN steam rises over my nose against this night cold empty room as wide as my throat; eases/flows river a mocha memory from aunt ora's kitchen. she made it in the big tin percolator and poured the brew into thick white fist-sized mugs and put lots of sugar and milk in it for me and the other kids who loved it better than chocolate and the neighbor woman used to tell her and us it wasn't good for young colored children to drink. it made you get blacker and blacker
From "African Sleeping Sickness: Stories and Poems" by Wanda Coleman (Black Sparrow Press: $25; $13 paper; 332 pp.) A native of Los Angeles, Coleman also is a recording artist and co-host of "The Poetry Connexion," an interview program airing locally on KPFK, 90.7 FM. copyright 1990 by Wanda Coleman. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.