TROUT   [ 2 ]

  Billie (for Brian Potiki)

It's one o'clock on Tuesday, the end of May 1997
four days to Loie's birthday and I'm sitting at Cam's table
with sun on my back and lighting up the honey grain
I want to write something for Robert's internet mag TROUT
he rang last night to say the deadline is Wednesday
there's nothing like a deadline to get me cracking

I'm feeling sleepy in the sun it would be easy to drop off
always a temptation to do something easier
and too often given in to
                                     last night Brian and Jill and girls turn up,
on the way to a powhiri in Rawene for Jill's sister
who starts work at the hospital there, with house on the water's edge
Brian and I talk Frank O'Hara and Billie Holiday
over a bottle of Aussie shiraz and a new Billie CD
I bought yesterday from a $10 table on Remers Rd. near Broadway
Billie in the cover photo looks absolutely breathtaking
with choker pearls and glistening Cupid's bow lips
Marilyn was said to grease her lipstick, maybe Lady did too.

Brian turns to his favourite, 'The Day Lady Died',
in my square-shaped SELECTED POEMS OF FRANK O'HARA, ed. Donald Hall
with the Larry Rivers nude Frank full frontal on the cover
it mostly tells of his lunchtime shopping for himself and friends
casually itemising books and booze and cigarettes
'and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it'

but it's not just an I do this, I do that lunchtime ramble
because this is the day Lady Day died and at the end
he remembers 'leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing'

that's how the poem ends but it's also Billy who's not breathing
besides, when she sang swing with Teddy Wilson
and Lester Young , dubbed by her The President, Prez for short
she seems to just breathe some of her most intoxicating lines
as in 'The Way You Look Tonight'
she liked lovers who were thrusters says Brian, credit Miles Davis

he and Jill have to leave at quarter to five the next morning
to get to Rawene by ten so we pack it in about 11.30
but not before I tell him to note how the Waima River
that Loie and I lived on in '75-'76 flows into the Hokianga at Rawene
it's easy to miss, so wide it looks like part of the harbour
The Billie Holiday Story, vol. 1, double record set, liner notes
Bill Hammond and Ralph Gleason was a treasure then.
I'd like to have a look at the big house again one day with the jetty
on the bend and mangroves in the black sucking tidal mud

Gerry Webb
   © 1997