— when my mother struggles to spell a word in english
I want to break the entire language
into little pieces
so the edges of these letters
will stop cutting her
— aysha via Diaspora Defiance
75 years ago, on this date, Billie Holiday recorded a song that Time Magazine would call song of the century: Strange Fruit, a song written about a lynching in the South.
Holiday first performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939. She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece making it a regular part of her live performances. Because of the poignancy of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore. During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer.
i felt like all my different selves were pulling away from each other at once, all in opposite directions, until what remained was static, a buzzing, a discomfort, a lack of safety or form. so i clung on tightly to her, i rubbed my cheek against hers and felt myself melting into her skin. isn’t this wonderful? i thought aloud but i was twitching, my breathing heavy and uneven, my grasp desperate. if she didn’t coax me to sleep with the calm of her touch, i probably would’ve spun into myself, crumpled into her fists upon realizing the hollowness of my being.