11 April 2011

Lady Day (1933)

1. Hammond

Music, music, music!
Everything is beautiful

Blown up and distorted
Beneath my Melody Maker

pen. Few have heard
or seen what I have

in that microphone
and spotlight. Oh!

and she is so
beautiful and buxom.

Over 200 lbs.
Glittering as if she

was covered by millions
of refulgent stalactites.

Finally I am Cuvier,
on the brink of exposing

this brown-bosomed
vocal goddess to our

unsuspecting rectangular world.
I’ll take her to Monette’s

where she’ll wow
them with Sarah Baartman

presence. She is the new canary
singing towards heaven,

and I’ll be the toast of the town.
Big things in this world are mine.


There is unexpected sun today
in London, and the crowds that
most days I see upon this stage
where I am working have dispersed.
I am a black cutout against
a captive white light, singing
the blues so the audience
can stare at my naked sex.

I am called “Lady Day.”
I left Baltimore with a promise
of revenue: quarter the profits
and freedom for us working girls;
because I wasn’t gonna be nobody’s
goddamn maid no more. Mr. Hammond
says I’m going to be the biggest hit since Josephine
and he is writing an article on me right now.

I am the family entrepreneur!
Putting on my shining dress
I take the smoky stage, and
you should see how they
stare at me. Like Susanna,
I am a strange fruit they
dare not embrace, but will
never turn away from.

In the coming years, my strange fruit
will ripen into a public animal of excess
and sex. So I like men, a lot, and
women too. I’m an artist, damnit!
And I like to smoke, drink, and feel
good. What do these people know of feeling
good? Ain’t nobody’s business if I do.

I refuse to forget Eleanora Fagan
and the misery she was born into.
I refuse to apologize for not wanting
to remain there, in Baltimore, turning
tricks. My flexible tongue and
healthy mouth bewilder these
people with their rotting teeth.

If they would just listen to
my song without being forced
to undress me with their eyes, maybe,
I could convince them to come up
on stage and have the light expose
their dullness and fetidness, so
the whole world audience could see
them as shriveled and hard,
geometric, deformed, and unnatural.

© Valentin Katz, 2005

1 comment:

  1. This is so beautiful! I love it! Such beautiful wording and imagery. Bravo!