Canary/#Billie Holiday's burned voicehad as many shadows...

May 26, 1993

Canary

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Billie Holiday's burned voice

had as many shadows as lights,

a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,

the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.

Now you're cooking, drummer to bass,

magic spoon, magic needle.

Take all day if you have to

with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

Fact is, the invention of women under siege

has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.

If you can't be free, be a mystery.

The Transport of Slaves from Maryland to Mississippi

(On August 22, 1839, a wagonload of slaves broke their chains, killed two white men, and would have escaped, had not a slave woman helped the Negro driver mount his horse and ride for help.)

I don't know if I helped him up

because I thought he was our salvation

or not. Left for dead in the middle

the road, dust hovering around the body

like a screen of mosquitoes

shimmering in the hushed light.

The skin across his cheekbones

burst open like baked yams --

deliberate, the eyelids came apart --

his eyes were my eyes in a yellower face.

Death and salvation -- one accommodates the other.

am no brute. I got feelings.

He might have been a son of mine.

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