So Why Not Have Another?

Darryl Pinckney on the writer Elizabeth Hardwick’s love of Billie Holiday (Lizzie is Elizabeth Hardwick, Cal is her husband Robert Lowell, the poet).

Once, completely blotto, I read aloud Frank O’Hara’s ‘The Day Lady Died,’ and Lizzie said that Cal liked for her to play her jazz records, but he didn’t really get them. Their daughter Harriet did. Lizzie said that you can listen to opera by yourself, but not certain kinds of jazz. You had to have someone with you when you listened to Billie Holiday, for instance. Otherwise, you might kill yourself. But then you might want to shoot yourself if you were listening with the wrong person, so why not have another.

PS:

The Day Lady Died
by Frank O’Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

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