Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


A Poem for Ella Fitzgerald

when she came on the stage, this Ella
there were rumors of hurricanes and
over the rooftops of concert stages
the moon turned red in the sky,
it was Ella, Ella.
queen Ella had come
and words spilled out
leaving a trail of witnesses smiling
amen—amen—a woman—a woman.

she began
this three agèd woman
nightingales in her throat
and squads of horns came out
to greet her.

streams of violins and pianos
splashed their welcome
and our stained glass silences
our braided spaces
unraveled
opened up
said who's that coming?
who's that knocking at the door?
whose voice lingers on
that stage gone mad with
      perdido. perdido. perdido.
      i lost my heart in toledooooooo.

whose voice is climbing
up this morning chimney
smoking with life
carrying her basket of words
                               a tisket a tasket
                               my little yellow
                               basket—i wrote a
                               letter to my mom and
                               on the way i dropped it—
                               was it red...no no no no
                               was it green...no no no no
                               was it blue...no no no no
                               just a little yellow

voice rescuing razor thin lyrics
from hopscotching dreams.

we first watched her navigating
an apollo stage amid high-stepping
yellow legs
we watched her watching us
shiny and pure woman
sugar and spice woman
her voice a nun's whisper
her voice pouring out
guitar thickened blues,
her voice a faraway horn
questioning the wind,
and she became Ella,
first lady of tongues
Ella cruising our veins
voice walking on water
crossed in prayer,
she became holy
a thousand sermons
concealed in her bones
as she raised them in a
symphonic shudder
carrying our sighs into
her bloodstream.

this voice, chasing the 
morning waves,
this Ella-tonian voice soft
like four layers of lace.
                               when i die Ella
                               tell the whole joint
                               please, please don't talk
                               about me when i'm gone...

i remember waiting one nite for her appearance
audience impatient at the lateness
of musicians,
i remember it was april
and the flowers ran yellow
the sun downpoured yellow butterflies
and the day was yellow and silent
all of spring held us
in a single drop of blood.

when she appeared on stage
she became Nut arching over us
feet and hands placed on the stage
music flowing from her breasts
she swallowed the sun
sang confessions from the evening stars
made earth divulge her secrets
gave birth to skies in her song
remade the insistent air
and we became anointed found
inside her bop
                               bop bop dowa
                               bop bop doowaaa
                               bop bop dooooowaaaa

Lady. Lady. Lady.
be good. be good
to me. 
             to you.              to us all
cuz we just some lonesome babes
in the woods
hey lady. sweetellalady
Lady. Lady. Lady. be gooooood
ELLA ELLA ELLALADY
        be good
                     gooooood
                                   goooooood...

Credit


From Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums. Copyright © 1998 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.

Author


Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez received the 2018 Wallace Stevens Award, given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.

Date Published: 2018-08-28

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/poem-ella-fitzgerald