On April 7th, 1917, Billie Holiday was born. Her life was an epic tragic poem (some might say). But her voice!
The day she died, July 17th, 1959, Frank O'Hara, American poet, wrote a poem. It was called The Day Lady Died.
In 2003, poet Phil Levine did a reading of that poem. Listen: Paul Levine reads Frank O'Hara: WNYC.
Here I am at the end of a neverending line
of people who need to sing and say
to be an o'hara, a holiday, a levine, but no, to be only
myself is struggle enough
once I roamed the streets of New York
ankle deep in smoky moondust
walked past people holding signs of missing loved ones
sat elbow to elbow with weeping strangers in St. Patrick's Cathedral
three days after that day we all died
today I woke up to sun warming a potholed dirt road in the country
our long dreamed-of Innisfree
where there are woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees,
I stripped beds, excited to hang sheets on the line
but these lines came first
that's the thing about curiosity
asking who was born today or who died:
you can suddenly find yourself lost
in a smoky jazz bar, or a church, or an old wound
a forgotten yearning to sing the blues.
Now, you: your turn
are at the beginning
of the end
of this line----------