KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 9: Spring 2018
Prose Poem: 214 words

Lady Day: July 1959

by Dan Gilmore

I sat no more than five feet away, nursing a gin and tonic at the Crescendo in L.A., poised to leap up and help her if she fell. She sat, unsteady, in a stained blue dress under a smoky white light, only half alive from her last shot of heroin, body ravaged by rape, domestic abuse, racism, imprisonment. With one high-heeled shoe hooked on the stool’s crossbar, the other planted on the floor to hold herself steady, she sang “God Bless the Child,” “Good Morning Heartache,” and “Strange Fruit.” It wasn’t that velvety voice of a soft fire with warm embers, but the sound of white water in a rocky river. She refused to give up. Once, when she couldn’t hit the pitch, an angry, deep-throated growl rose up as if she were pleading to God to find the strength to finish the set. There she was, Lady Day, used up but doing what she was born to do up until the end. She died three weeks later. Remembering her today, as I battle my own rough waters, I pause to ask God to give me a little of what Lady Day had, her soulful determination to find the right note and to last until the end of the set.


—From Gilmore’s book in progress, Dharma Box, forthcoming from KYSO Flash in 2018

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