Goodbye Porkpie Hat: Farewells and Remembrances
The line "You so beautiful but you got to die someday" is the story of humankind in nine words.
-- Whitney Balliett
Cold chestnuts flowering April & you're falling from heaven in a shower of eighth notes to the cobbled street below & foaming dappled horses plunge beneath the still green waters of the Grand Canal.
-- Lynda Hull
"It is 12:20 in New York a Friday / three days after Bastille Day, yes it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine" ( O'Hara, 325). Yes, it is July 17, 1959, and the speaker in Frank O'Hara "The Day Lady Died" begins his walk through the Manhattan streets, doing what he can to repress the fact that Billie Holiday, the seemingly immortal Lady Day, is gone. He describes the afternoon in slow motion as though recounting an anxiety dream (he finds himself "practically going to sleep with quandriness") and each detail, no matter how mundane, takes on monumental importance, much like the stories that answer the common question, "Where were you when J. F. K. was shot?" When he buys some foreign smokes at a corner tobacconist, his eyes flash to the cover of the New York Post, at that time a respectable paper, and the photograph of Holiday makes his haze dissipate to memory:
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the FIVE SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing (325)