Where does the good go

Being sorry & colored at the same time

I just finished Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf – a movie based on a choreopoem by Ntozake Shange.

It’s a good movie with some amazing performances, but it also reminded me of some rather great poetry. I starred in a production of this when I was 13. It occurs to me now, that may have been an inappropriate choice for our merry band of teenagers, but our director was a larger than life dramatist who believed we could own whatever work if we believed in ourselves and the art. Yes, that’s how she talked.

All the time.

Ms. Wade can we go to McDonald’s after rehearsal?

Darlings, you can go to the moon and the stars and places not even yet mapped in the galaxy. You are all powerful.

Um…okay, but really, I guess what I was asking, more specifically, is will you give us the money to go to McDonald’s after rehearsal?

She and her husband Adam would write afro-centric one act plays for us and we’d rehearse in their one bedroom apartment in Harlem. I googled their names. But nothing came up.


I was a smart alecky, prudish Uber catholic girl at the time, (pretty much me now, but without the back pain), so Shange’s work made me very uncomfortable. The subject matter, the syntax, the sharing the stage with other girls (I AM A STAR, WOMAN!); I just didn’t get it.

I did it and owned it and ate my McDonald’s afterwards.

But I was happy when we moved back to comedies. And fancy Shakespearan monologues that made me feel clever and sophisticated.

I read For Colored Girls again in college and I liked it more then and got more of “it,” than I had six years earlier, but rereading some of these poems tonight, well, I was so blown away by the truth…the raw clarity of her words, that I had to reprise my poetry posting for a moment.

And on a Wednesday at that!

I struggled between picking this poem and a Lady in Green Poem “Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff” (These poems are somewhat easier understood heard.) But ultimately, I chose this one because it touches on the issues from that poem — losing too much of yourself to people who could not care less about your stuff — but also the unique struggles of women who don’t want to be bitches, but also don’t want to be trod upon. And of colored girls who cdnt stand bein sorry & colored at the same time/it’s so redundant in the modern world.


lady in Orange

ever since i realized there waz someone callt
a colored girl an evil woman a bitch or a nag
i been tryin not to be that & leave bitterness
in somebody else’s cup/ come to somebody to love me
without deep & nasty smellin scald from lye or bein
left screamin in a street fulla lunatics/ whisperin
slut bitch bitch niggah/ get outta here wit alla that/
i didnt have any of that for you/ i brought you what joy
i found & i found joy/ honest fingers round my face/ with
dead musicians on 78’s from cuba/ or live musicians of five
dollar lp’s from chicago/ where i have never been/ & i love
willie colon & arsenio rodriquez/ especially cuz i can make
the music loud enuf/ so there is no me but dance/ & when
i can dance like that/ there’s nothin cd hurt me/ but
i get tired & i haveta come offa the floor & then there’s
that womna who hurt you/ who you left/ three of four times/
& just went back/ after you put my heart in the bottom of
yr shoe/ you just walked back to where you hurt/ & i didnt
have nothin/ so i went to where somebody had somethin for me/
but he waznt you/ & i waz on the way back from her house
in the bottom of yr shoe/ so this is not a love poem/ cuz there
are only memorial albums available/ & even charlie mingus
wanted desperately to be a pimp/ & i wont be able to see eddie
palmieri for months/ so this is a requium for myself/ cuz i
have died in a real way/ not wid aqua coffins & du-wop cadillacs/
i used to joke abt when i was messin round/ but a real dead
lovin is here for you now/ cuz i dont know anymore/ how
to avoid my own face wet wit tears/ cuz i had convinced
myself colored girls had no right to sorrow/ & i lived
& loved that way & kept sorrow on the curb/ allegedly
for you/ but i know i did it for myself/
i cdnt stand it
i cdnt stand bein sorry & colored at the same time
it’s so redundant in the modern world

2 Responses to “Being sorry & colored at the same time”

  1. PokerLawyer Says:



    Hi, I’m a French translator and currently translating For Colored Girls for a publisher in France. I have many questions about this powerful text, could you answer some of them, give me your feeling? For instance, how do you interpret the “aqua coffins” in the excerpt you reproduced here?
    Thanks in any case for this insightful article.

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