Zadie Smith Sings Lady Day
A Found Poem, more or less
Get you a dog, girl, a little dog.
A dog don't cheat. A dog don't lie.
A dog remind you of you.
They give everthing they got,
risk it all, and love you through it.
Get you all dressed up now.
Shut that broken misused girl
you used to be--a new you.
No confusions--you get your fur,
your pearls, your diamond smile.
You boil an egg in twinset and pearls.
Your girl days are done; your daughter
days are done; your you days begun.
Nobody be your mother. You a woman
now; you your own woman.
Don't let nobody stop you
on 110th to tell you nothin, not even
how much they loved you at Carnegie Hall;
take out your pearled cigarette box
and hand them a smoke. You good at givin out
smokes. You give it all away. It stream
from you like rivers rollin to the sea:
love, song, smokes, dough. Everyone want
a piece of you. You let 'em have it. It all
you can do to keep ahold of your mink.
You so you, unattached, unbeholdin,
floatin; no one tell you when to come
or when to go or when to leave, who
to see, where to go, and you, you don't
have to listen even when they punch
you in the gut. You the woman that got
Men come and go and mostly leave you
waiting--wanting, so if some lover man
break your heart or your face, you trust
your voice, open your mouth:
you Lady Day; you not afraid
to look for love in all the places.
With or without escorts, you gettin there;
you always gettin there, except
when those exceptions when exceptional
things seem to happen that simply can't
be helped. When the music come, the song,
all is forgiven: you even forgive yourself.
Make yourself up girl, your stage demands it:
hair, face, it all a kind of armor. They lookin
for your soul in that face, painted a protection,
beautiful mask, death mask. Take a look, lookin
right at you, right through your song, crossing
over the border between you and them.
What it like Lady Day?
What it like standing up there,
singin your heart out?
Eatin your heart out.
Is nobody out there in the dark at all?
A voice got to feel its way.
Throw your pearls out there before
swines in the dark.
This song ain't a June-Moon-Croon-Tune;
it a story, this song a story
about real lives, pain and heartbreak.
You not a goddam jukebox. You sing it
when you want, like you want. You turn that room
into a church--hush, it the last song or the only song.
And you never done with that song.
It all of you, out there, givin everthing you got.