“White Gardenia…(for Lady)” — a poem by Robert Kokan

April 7th, 2022

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photo (cropped) by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Billie Holiday at the Downbeat Club; New York, 1947

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White Gardenia
…………….(for Lady)

From a dark corner, night crawls across a wood-board floor
warped from a life beneath boots and spilled beer.
Her music is a moan, a collection of sorrows,
lost love, broken hearts, and illegal dreams.
Once again Billie’s trading her life for the blues,
her pretty skin for scars.
She opens a vein,
spills herself across the continent,
and all America can feel it
as evening spreads it’s lonely shadows from east to west.

There’s something of the Baltimore streets
still inside her, that condenses her bones.
A tiredness to it, like a Jones,
as if a long journey by bus or train
across the flatlands of the world
has drained the life out of her
and left an emptiness
she carries in a separate bag,
a satchel of life never to look too deeply into.

When she sings she becomes a shadow
slipping away like God is calling.

It’s not hard to disappear, she tells us,
I’ve been doing it all my life.

So sing your sadness Lady.
Let it fall out like tears.
Hover over us angelic as hell.
There is no doubt of your wings
and your ability to fly as easy as an angel.
We’re here hanging onto the hem of your gown,
saying, Don’t go,
saying, Take us along.
Because you do, Lady,
take us with you
yet leave pieces behind.
Stay and go as if it were as easy as walking,
though now, like this, even that is a struggle.

Sing us to sleep, Lady.
Tonight we will be your children behaving.

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Robert Kokan has had poetry published in Bramble, and the ezines Yellow Mama and Breathe.

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Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915 (107 years ago today).  She died on July 17, 1959

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Listen to Billie Holiday sing “Some Other Spring,” from her album Lady Sings the Blues, which was released in December, 1956 [Universal]

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Click here  for information about how to submit your poetry to Jerry Jazz Musician

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