For bille and mama. Two women who taught me how to sing with my words. And never stop.
march 27, 1948
just two days sprung from the big house. billie plants herself center stage. stands tree still. her right pointer finger still stinging where she pricked it. backstage. pinning her gardenias in place.
brava! a man’s voice cries before she has even begun. she closes her eyes. purple veins bloom on her thrown back neck. from somewhere her voice escaped.
her gloved arms risen like two phantoms off the sides of her sequined torso. blood on the leaves and blood at the root. 32 songs lit in the throat. burning the house down.
december 9, 1980
even her mother. sitting front and center in a red velvet chair. makes noise with her large dough hands. rubs them together. chants under her breath “come on laniboo. come on baby. play for us.”
on stage mama folds then unfolds then refolds the silk scarf she uses instead of a chinrest. she places her violin sharply against her bruised neck. she plucks. tightens the pegs. tunes to the obeo’s whiney A.
then closed eyes. fade out. she disappears. a breath. inhale rosin.
from somewhere. a beginning. first the string section behind her growing louder in her ears. sibelius concerto in d minor. her fingers stinging as she presses down on the fingerboard waiting for the cue. then her bow. flying into the air. her right arm runaway.
i’ve got them. now. the first note. hers. then crescendo. whole body singing.