Tag Archives: blues

Lady sings the blues

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Black? Can’t you see?
Singer? Listen and you’ll see
Whore? Yes, I did that too
And I drink like four men
You don’t scare me, I’ve played in worse places than this
Southern cowboy bars where they spat on me
A city where a black man was lynched that same day
New Orleans where a fashionable devil
Brought me drug bouquets each night
Chicago I fell for a syphilitic trumpeter
And as I left the club they smashed my teeth
In the rain between one station and the next
Lady sings the blues

Black? Yes, but I’m used to it
Singer? Like a birdcage
Low and high notes, the whole range
I can flutter like those celluloid beauties
And then strike you with a ballad to the heart
You want strange fruit? You want midnight train?
I can sing it drunk
or with a knife in my back
or full of whisky and what else, I’m a saint
And my altar is here, this smoke, this stage
where lady sings the blues

Black? Yes, and beautiful, man
Singer? All I know how to do
Whore? Yeah, I did that too
And I drink like four men
Don’t touch me or I’ll rip that white face off you
Put down your drink, open what little heart you have
Shut up and listen – I sing
as though it was the last time
Shut up, bastards, and kneel
lady sings the blues

And as you go home say it
I heard an angel sing
wings of marble and satin
stench of whisky, sick black whore
Tell everyone my name, don’t forget
I am the ruler of a rag realm
I am the sun voice on the cottonfields
I am the black voice of light
I am the lady who sings the blues
Oh, and one more thing… I’m Billie
Billie Holiday

(Original Italian by Stefano Benni – Lady sings the blues)

NaPoWriMo Day 27 – The Father II (Benni)

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Sing to me the stream of acid
and the lead in my lungs
the shadow of a bicycle
on the other side of the river
sing to me of a football flying
between me and my son’s smile
sing to me the ill stars
that I saw from the window.

Because I didn’t know.

I didn’t know how many things were happening
and took them like promises
of something bigger and truer
now I know they were my Story.
That afternoon was the only one of my life
but only now can I say that.
That wound will stay
my deepest scar.
That was the only love
and the friends I waved to
that time really left.
I was happy, but doubted it
those pages were my book.
For I have been
more than what I am, and will be.

NaPoWriMo Day 26 – The Father I (Benni)

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From Sixteen Bar Blues, First Movement.

So I stay, crucified to an average afternoon
on the abyss of a kitchen table
between dirty dishes, this is also dew
thinking that it can’t go on like this
in the painful wind, standing still.

Sing to me the warm stream of acid
and the lead in my lungs
the grease of colloids
seeping through the roof
the thunder of presses, and the heat
sing to me the Red and Green of the Impartial
the pickets in the snow, crippled comrades
hits taken and given
sing to me an envelope that says
you are free from this
you are old for this.

Sing to me the days without beginning or goal
tell me what name I should pray.

Did God ever have to walk into a shop
with two-pounds-fifty, eyes to the ground
choosing the cheapest milk
for the Son, the only hungry son?
Does God know the price of a tin of beans?
Was he ever unemployed for years
does God know what it means to count
the change in your pockets, like kids?
God does not allow this, he wills it
in his Infinite tiredness. So we meet him
finally at arm’s reach, in the fading smile
of the cashier, after a ten-hour shift.
In the funeral light of the neon lamps, queuing
choosing soaps to eternally wash
the clothes we’ll soil and wear again
wedding dresses and killing uniforms
old shirts and glorious cufflinks
a football shirt, faded blue-green.
My son watched me in silence
on the short grass of a modest battle
that day long gone, proud of his dad.
The same dad today queuing for God’s will
with old men holding toilet rolls
and the hobbling old lady, worried
for the whimpering dog, tied up outside
loyal and silent son, never growing.
Between teenagers kissing, arms full of beer
and an undecided homemaker, carting too much meat
poisonous cows/arctic chickens/dinosaur bones.

And me, I who know the final chime
of the till, when it swallows fates at night.
I bought you milk, I know you like it
and a bar of chocolate, with the free toy
made in Taipei and I have no change
left to smoke, but it doesn’t matter.
While God sleeps on soiled clouds
and in the deserted field a football bounces
alone and loudly, a cloth-moon.

Within the shop walls a bull runs
in a nightmare, it dreams of its slaughter
and its fear wakes me up.