Monday, April 7, 2008

Our Lady

Today we honor the birth of one of the greatest storytellers the world has ever known, the great Lady Day, Miss Billie Holiday. Why one of the world's greatest storytellers? It would be enough that she is universally recognized as the most influential singer in jazz. But in recognizing Billie Holiday, we also recognize the depth, and power, of her emotional authority, and undeniable sense of reality. Those qualities, along with her intense swing, and lyrical embrace of even the most "common" material, rank her among the greatest in the arts of telling a story. And, damn sure telling it like it is. Here is a poem about Billie written by Jayne Cortez;


Everyone snatched
a piece of her gardenia
to wear in cut flesh
of their gloomy Sunday
Everyone looked
for detours
had premonitions
& forgot
what a little moonlight could do
to a woman standing on
the outside of her body
singing to
the body inside of a song about lynching
Everyone knew about transported spirits
random rooster combs
& the lover man sanctifying in her solitude
But no one wanted to touch
that low fired instantaneous friction sitting
on the inside of outside when she sang
"strange fruit hanging on a poplar tree"

from, The Beautiful Book by Jayne Cortez, Bola Press, New York, 2007

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