It is like a scene in a play.
His bald spot shines upward between dark tufts of hair.
We are sitting in a pool of light on the plastic
covered couch, Ernestine, his last live-in,
ended up with. But that is the end.
We are sitting in the beginning of our lives now
looking at our father upright in his black
reclining chair. It's four of us then, children,
new to Los Angeles--drugs, sex, Watts burning,
Aretha, Michael Jackson, the murder of King,
haven't happened yet.
He is explaining how things will be--
Which one will cook, which one will clean.
"Your mama," he announces, "is not coming."
Two thousand miles away in the yellow
linoleum light of her kitchen, my mother
is sitting in the easy tan-colored man's lap.
Kissing him. Her perfect legs golden like
whiskey, his white shirt rolled up arms
that surround her like the smell of cake baking.
"Forget about her," my father's voice drops like
a curtain, "she doesn't want you. She never did."
Holding the photograph by its serrated edges, staring,
I know the dark grey of her lips is "Jubilee Red"
her face brown silk. I start with the slick
corner of the photograph, put it in my mouth like it's
pizza or something. I close my eyes, chew, swallow.
my heart leaks knowing
since you shot my sheets
lifting me out my skin
i look for your tongue in light
& listen to tales of a new daughter
apartments, mortgages, wife;
knowing i was just a blurred night--
black, whited-out & lost.
Out the blue you call back the years
like a movie reel rewinding,
after six deaf years i hear
you want to come over.
the silence of blind rooms
goads me to balance
humpty dumpty like
one more time the weight of light.
& i would,
but for the bleeding yolk
that lies in cracked knowing--
once it's eaten
Excerpted from Black Wings & Blind Angels by Sapphire. Copyright © 1999 by Sapphire. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Photo credit: Lina Pallotta