after Wanda Coleman

Ms. Birdsong what a beautiful last 
Ms. Birdsong are you the head of your 
Ms. Birdsong your total today comes to 
Ms. Birdsong your insurance will only cover
Ms. Birdsong can you please step out of 
Ms. Birdsong your test results are back and
Ms. Birdsong I am going to refer you
Ms. Birdsong thanks for your recent donation but
Ms. Birdsong you have been randomly selected for
Ms. Birdsong unfortunately you were not chosen
Ms. Birdsong I am calling about your past due
Ms. Birdsong do you really have a Ph.—
Destiny what a beautiful first 
Destiny are you related to someone
Destiny I can’t remember if that’s a wig but
Destiny if you’re not too busy I 
Destiny you are never on time for 
Destiny I’m not ready for a serious
Destiny I really need to ask if
Destiny this time I promise I
Destiny well I’m sorry if you felt like 
Destiny don’t hold your breath because 
                                             [Destiny, they will kill you and say you—] 
Destiny when will you be coming


Copyright © 2021 by Destiny O. Birdsong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Bandwidth’ was written on November 13th, 2019, a terrible day that began with a dental exam and a prescription for a very expensive bottle of mouthwash. That afternoon, I was curled in bed, scrolling through Twitter because I was tired but too overwhelmed to nap, and someone had retweeted Wanda Coleman’s ‘Wanda Why Aren’t You Dead’ in celebration of what would have been Coleman’s 73rd birthday. I was struck by how the poem illustrates the audacity with which people read Black women’s lives, but it also reads those people for filth by repeating their absurdities. I wanted to capture some of that in ‘Bandwidth,’ which is a tribute to Coleman and to what Coleman’s poetry does: sheds light on the exhausting work of navigating other people’s estimations of Black women’s value—the tiny boxes they put us in—while exploding those boxes in simple but ingeniously deliberate ways.”
Destiny O. Birdsong