Mudlark No. 58 (2015)

When Billie Holiday Sings about Southern Trees

and blood on the leaves, you see the congruent drip 
inscribe moonlit ground. You smell old magnolias.
The piano plays a dirge; the trumpet plays one, too.
The weight of wrong is in the voice that soars and
explodes an idea that our burdens are inert things
too heavy to lift. Everything about blood flowers.
And the knots and cordage a lynched man strains 
against before the longing in every muscle relaxes.
She’s singing, Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
and we hear the creak of a branch accepting a rope.
We hear the awful noise that is like no hinge singing.
After we imagine this, what goes out from each of us 
isn’t like breath. It’s more a needing to look away
before making a eucharist of regret. Take this song.
The essential miracle isn’t that old movie of pain
with the torch singer sporting an orchid in her hair,
the dead heroine with her history of tragic stardom.
It isn’t an angelic-voiced Immortal or the song itself.
The miracle is we use it to redeem part of the world.

Roy Bentley | The Fate of the Saints
Contents | Mudlark No. 58 (2015)