The café was loud
and the sound system soft
so the music—Billie Holiday—
got lost unless you
listened for it, picked it out
from the table chatter and kitchen clatter
and from the flushed worker dropping
flatware fresh from the dishwasher
into a divided metal bin—from
the busy, vibrant, everyday
surface sounds that served
to camouflage Billie's
quiet voice; to shroud
her scarring devastation yet
helpless hope for love; to conceal
her gritty, intimate blues
so near to completely
that her rhythm section
was discernible not in itself
but only through what Billie
made of its measured flow of time
as she anticipated it and lagged behind it
then sank into the heart
of its passing.