Rain today on the West Bank at 1:14 when your letter came
with O’Hara’s praise song for Lady Day that always puts me
in mind of saxophones and sweat and one night stands and Ellington
and how the two Miss Billies—Holliday and Strayhorn—
both were born in Nineteen-Fifteen, year of “Birth of a Nation,”
year of Typhoid Mary, year the House put women’s suffrage down,
year of the Klan once more in Georgia. Passed too soon
sweet Billy and Billie, passed before we had enough strange fruit
or A train, before we scratched our jazzy itch enough.
Awake again, in this mosquito-bit bayou with its beignets and gumbo,
your letter reminds me of New York music, how hungry
I am for bagels and Strega, how grateful for city-wet streets
and perfect pitch in downtown bars. Today’s rain taps a backbeat
on the peeling trellis, sings they’re gone, and I can
almost hear the Lady’s “rainy day again” over a stray piano line.
Winner of Highland Park Poetry Challenge