Monday, April 6, 2009

The Smallest Range: A Poem for Anita O'Day

For the first Monday of Poetry Month, I thought I'd post one of my own poems, just for kicks.

This is a poem I wrote a while back for one of my favorite singers of all time: Anita O'Day. When Ms. O'Day was a child, she had a botched tonsillectomy that left her with a very small vocal range, and little capacity for vibrato. She always claimed that having less to work with forced her to find more rhythmic, interesting ways to use her voice.

[Completely unrelated side note: There's a great round-up of all the online Poetry Month events in the kidlit world over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.]

The Smallest Range
Poem for Anita O’Day
by Josephine Cameron

Even this, this nothing, this incremental
change in pitch, if this is all there is, mold it, push it,
slice it to pieces, listen to it skitter and scat
through the cracks of this litany, this homage
to a void, this slender all-you’ve-ever-had.

Anita’s run off with the boys again—
Uptown, they play hardball, incongruous
with these thin lips, these starched curls;
home is a place to leave, so stamp it shrug it
drug it out, send sixteenth notes like so many coins
clamoring; crevices are made to be filled.
Leave behind expectations, preconceptions;
who’d have thought this flatness could burst
within its confines, the poisoned seed bloom;
this is evolution, determination, music, jazz.

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