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"The Gardenia"

by Cornelius Eady

The trouble is, you can never take
That flower from Billie's hair.
She is always walking too fast
and try as we might,

there's no talking her into slowing.
Don't go down into that basement,
we'd like to scream. What will it take
to bargain her blues,

To retire that term when it comes
to her? But the grain and the cigarettes,
the narcs and the fancy-dressed boys,
the sediment in her throat.

That's the soil those petals spring from,
Like a fist, if a fist could sing.


Cornelius EadyCornelius Eady's sonnet-like poem "The Gardenia" pays tribute to the influential African American singer Billie Holiday. This poem discovers that beauty sometimes sprouts from the ugliest parts of our world.

Eady is the author of eight books of poetry and the co-founder of Cave Canem, an organization that supports emerging African American poets. His dramatic sequence Brutal Imagination was adapted into an off-Broadway play.

"The Gardenia" © 2011 by Cornelius Eady, used by permission of the author.