Anita O’Day (October 18, 1919 – November 23, 2006)
Oh, that sacred heart. Waving like a flag. While the flat heads dragged their chins along the asphalt. Preaching redemption. Never telling you how you survive. The bread lines. Marching to the beat of time. Blouses used as rags. When spring sets in. And the windows need to be cleaned. And the bums are lining up outside. For Lent. To save themselves from noon. With promises to help Him down from the tree.
Short notes. Diaries and lockets. And a rhythmic drive. The doctors leaned over. Slit open Anita’s throat. Like they were parting the Red Sea. Like they were opening a zipper. And she begged. Don’t put anything else in my mouth.
White Studebakers rolled slowly down the lane. And men in long white overcoats. Danced a jig. Pretending they were press agents for love. Her eyes opened with surprise. A gurgle that sounded like laughter. The rain through the gutter. Smelled like clover.
On the road. Cheek against the glass. Too many buses. Too many stops. In empty rooms. Too many handsome men with dark sunglasses. Garters slid so slowly down a calf.
There was a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Deep freeze techniques were first used in heart surgery. In 1952. Birdseye sold the first frozen peas. And you sometimes had to wait hours. For the sun to reappear.
Empty hearts. And wallets. And between your thighs, promises were made. Promises about things you can no longer recall. But they were sweet. Stockings over chairs. And the morning light.
Too many hangers dripping. With dreams. Too many office buildings after hours. Elevators out of service. Too much talk about nothing. A heart sling. Gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda. And His name in vain. Thrown at the shadow from the chair over there. Too many cloudy mirrors. Too many cheap diners. Too many miles going nowhere. Too many walls for company.
Raped in a gas station washroom. 31 storms crossed 6 states. Killing 340. The worst smog in London. Four to 8,000 died. But who’s counting. The floor was wet. And the mirror was out of focus. A radio was crying. A Studebaker pulled up for gas. Pope Pius XII had just published the encyclical Orientales Ecclesias.
In the early 1970s, she was living. In a $3-a-night hotel. In Los Angeles. Bums used to beat her for her life insurance. Anita died of alcohol dementia. Her autobiography was dedicated to her dog.