Monday, February 20, 2012

Danny St. Clair & Henrietta Murphy

How they met and why they loved–that was the story
Bobby needed to know. No one knew now.
Maybe Danny’s friend, who revenged his death
and caged in Walla Walla doing life,
he knows but how do you get to him there.
You go on what you know, namely nothing.
Make it up, Bobby chooses. Better that
than what’s worse, silence that has no meaning,
for he does have here what’s called solitude.

At lunch he meets a woman with red hair,
smaller than Henrietta, who was five foot ten,
or so Bobby was told by those who knew
his mother. This woman who calls herself
a name he’s never heard before asks if
he will let her draw him. They talk music,
women singers--Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald–
after she starts with Maria Callas.
I grew up listening to Billie Holiday,
he doesn’t know the divas, she calls them,
though Marian Anderson, Is she one?
The woman tells him he knows more
than he thinks he does. She says, Let me bring
a tape to play while I’m drawing your face.
Bobby is quickly amazed: Who is that?
In answer he learns there are three levels
this voice travels, a road that none has gone
before or since. Yma Sumac. He won’t
forget that name. And he likes the drawing.

It’s the same as before: It’s Henrietta
he needs to know, for when Christina comes
to see him she says his mother was a singer.
His father loved her voice. When they loved
they listened to a tape of Anita O’Day
all night long, at least when they were awake
doing what a man does with a woman
and she lets him do it when she trusts him
so much there is nothing she won’t do to please him.

(20 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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