She averted her eyes, sharply turned her head
“Tell me when he stops looking at me,” she said.
A sultry August afternoon at the town’s outdoor café
the boy, seated with his parents at a table nearby,
amazed, the 12 year old stared, his eyes
stretched wide, an arrowlike aim on her profile;
finally he blinked, returned to his coke
and to parents unaware of his sudden attraction.
“He’s stopped,” I said to our Maya,
a 10 year old Venus-in-progress.
In a voice cracked like her innocence, she said,
“How old were you the first time that happened?”
What was a grandmother to say – the truth?
“I was never beautiful, never as beautiful as you.”
Billie Holiday Duplex
Remembering you and your ethereal voice:
You sang the blues infused with sorrow.
You sang the blues women know.
You sang of the willow weeping for you;
It wept and still weeps for me.
Like you, I greet each day with heartache;
When you crooned Good Morning Heartache,
Agony pulsed from my heart through my veins.
Your agony was eased by cocaine, heroin
And the company of unloving men.
Unloving lovers drugged you and dragged you down
Abandoned on a hospital deathbed downtown.
Uptown and downtown women sing the blues
Remembering you and your ethereal voice.
Florence Ladd’s poems have appeared in The Women’s Review of Books, The Progressive, Rockhurst Review, Sweet Auburn, Beyond Slavery, Oberon, Transition, The Golden Shovel Anthology and Renga for Obama. Her chapbook, Reclaiming Rose, was published (2015) by Finishing Line Press. She is the author of the novels Sarah’s Psalm and The Spirit of Josephine.