Ed Baynard, Map of the Big City, 1994, acrylic, ink and watercolor, 20 × 27 inches. Courtesy Paul Morris.
It is like a scene in a play.
His bald spot shines upwards between dark tufts of hair.
We are sitting in a pool of light on the plastic
covered couch, Celestine, 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
“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 gray 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 some shit. I close my eyes, chew, swallow.