For Jazz

                Billie Holiday

Billie with her dogs and maid, the years
When she wore down her friends’ anxiety,
When the timbre thickened and the voice would give,
Letting audiences indulge a taste for tragedy,
Or sense the presence of authentic tears —
This is the way, in music, women live,
And we applaud the losses they sustain,
And thrill to the female ache in the voice’s grain.
Perverse to remember a thing blighted
Better than the same thing whole. Better recall
Billie when her strength could knock men flat,
Drink them under tables, with her fresh, excited
Vigor, laughter, song, in spite of all
Her childhood said. Remember her like that.