12.28.2012

Poplar Fruit

My friend Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made On wrote a post for me the other day answering a question I had for him - so here I am repaying th favor. He asked me if I would write a poem based on a Billie Holliday song, how can anyone resist a prompt like that? If I were a great poet, I would write a whole book of items on Billie songs! Well, I chose an obvious one, I didn't want to pick something obscure, and I remember on NPR hearing an interview with Norah Jones, where she was talking about in high school, one of hr teachers asked her to do a Billie song for a talent show of some sort. She figured shed end up singing something light hearts, I think her example was "What a Little Moonlight Can Do." Instead, er teacher picked Strange Fruit, one of the headiest, darkest songs on Billies repertoire, a song about racism - in particular Lynchings. I remember thinking how hard that would be, singing a song so bitter and angry and personal, about something ones own ancestors might have participated in. So, this week, i wrote "Poplar Fruit." Hope you weren't hoping for a HAPPY poem, Mr. Chris...

My thighs are plump and sturdy,
My face is butter fat,
My belly filled with poplar fruit
My grandfathers planted.

My children are both quick and pure,
Rich with education,
Their fingers stained by poplar fruit
My grandfathers planted.

My heart is sick and heavyset
My heart, she's over fed
With strange fruit hung from poplar trees
My grandfathers planted

I wear a dress of samite silk
Dyed black and white and red,
From flesh burned ash, from bone, from blood
From poplar fruit grown rich and sweet,
From growing on the poplar trees
My grandfathers planted

3 comments:

Chris Howard said...

So beautiful, Jason! You made me tear up at work. I was actually hoping you would pick one of her darker songs because there is so much emotion in those songs..so much feeling...that's why I thought of this question for you. This poem is just as haunting as Strange Fruit. Thank you!

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