Book Excerpt – Black Wings & Blind Angels: Poems

Black Wings & Blind Angels: Poems
by Sapphire

    Publication Date: Sep 12, 2000
    List Price: $12.00
    Format: Paperback, 144 pages
    Classification: Poetry
    ISBN13: 9780679767312
    Imprint: Vintage
    Publisher: Penguin Random House
    Parent Company: Bertelsmann

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    Copyright © 2000 Penguin Random House/Sapphire No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.

    Breaking Karma #5


    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.

    "Breaking Karma #6"

    I’m in the movies now playing the part
    of the girl who broke my heart.
    My mouth, strobe-light pink, bounces off blue sequins.
    Behind me the Stones sing "Miss You," hollering,
    "There’s some Puerto Rican girls around the corner
    just dying to meet chu."
    In the wings a white boy in a wheelchair moans,
    "Oh operator please get straight."
    SHE takes the stage now. Big yella gal.
    Daddy was a wop. Mama was a nigger.
    She’s a singer. With a voice hot semi-liquid rock.
    Her heels are hills, cobalt blue melting like
    her dress into the firm breasts, fat hips & belly
    of Black Los Angeles.
    "Let’s burn down the corn field," SHE wails.
    It’s 1968. Tito, Michael, Randy & Cato
    are dancing down rows of rainbow colored corn
    when a voice comes over the loud speaker:
    There will be no ambulances tonight.
    "We’ll make love, we’ll make love while it burns,"
    SHE screams like Howlin’ Wolf, like Jay Hawkins,
    like Hank Williams, like Van Gogh’s windmill,
    like the severed ear of black wind in a plate
    of pigtails & pink beans,

    like that bridge in Connecticut that collapsed
    under the center of air shaking like
    change in a cup.
    SHE stands like the big legs of a nuclear plant
    cracked at the base melting down a room full
    of $3/hr assembly line workers who hear her
    & shout, "Honey Hush!" & the crack in their
    mother’s back becomes a sidewalk, then a road
    leading to a peach tree in "Georgy"
    or a pear tree in Florida.
    I’m eating popcorn & watching a Mexican
    dump a drunk paraplegic BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
    in the desert his granddad rolled over
    a century ago killing for gold.
    At the side of the road an Okie girl,
    selling peanuts & semiprecious gems,
    hands me three pieces of black obsidian,
    called "Apache Tears," the Okie girl drawls,
    "’cause after the cavalry massacred their men,
    the Native women cried so hard
    their tears turned black, then to stone."
    Inside the theater the screen fills up
    with a fat half breed burning, gasoline
    in a blue dress. SHE picks up a

    microphone & in a book she hasn’t read yet
    a white boy in a rented room puts
    his eyes out with lye. "I rather!" SHE shouts.
    "Tell it!" the audience shouts back. "Umm hmm,"
    like the wind trapped in a slave castle SHE moans,
    "I rather go blind," the screen melts white
    drips down her face & disappears,
    "than see you—"

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