a poem about Billie Holiday; bittersweet songs and a painful life
Pretty little brown girl
with silken vocal pipes.
Too much power for a frail frame,
born with desire to fan flames.
Cleanin' white folks homes
hums gospel as she scrubs,
along creeps a booking spider
with a generous offer to hire.
She opens her heart
to melodic smoky blues.
One voice can both simmer
and hunger; a sensual lover.
Desires a man of her own.
Many have pretended that look.
Then Louis slips a Gardenia behind her ear
whispers, "I slay dragons, no more fears",
Warblers sang her charms.
Sinatra boasts "She is one of a kind".
She became "Lady Day"
Behind closed doors, she lost her way.
Real life; a ugly slap in the face.
She, the voice of an angel,
traveled in the deep South,
told to use a filthy outhouse.
She was the ugly enemy
Whites could claim purity.
Singing about strange fruit
was all about fatal bigotry.
All our Lady yearned for
was a baby to love.
She fought urges, to be her best.
No syringe in a family nest.
Denied a child, no good man to hold,
an old craving stirred.
The candyman came.
Life was cold, she lit the flame.
It always takes away the pain.
Wraps her up, warms the veins.
It doesn't last, it's never real.
Too soon, a hunger for one more deal.
Once caught, she couldn't work
no singing where there was booze.
The court could not know
in her throat bloomed her very soul.
Our angel was found in a seedy hotel.
Broke, alone, stone cold
a packet of white powder, her poison fuel.
Billie Holliday, a 'once in a lifetime' jewel.
By Kathie Stehr