Jazz Baby – poem

Let me just say before we start, I am not now and never expect to be a poet.  But there was something about the phrases I chose for the original  prose version of this that made me want to try to write it in poem form, maybe it’s the rhythm or something.  Anyway,  In the 1920s, young women were not ‘fans’ as they are today.  A girl who was a keen follower of Jazz bands and Jazz music was called a Jazz Baby.  Auntie Zonya was one!

auntie zonya and me at london zoo June 1965

Jazz Baby

 Jazz Baby sneaks out at night when the lights are out

The window is open, the house is quiet.

She’s supposed to be sleeping in modest chastity

But she yearns to go out and dance and be free.

She blackens her lashes with boot-polish smudges

Jewellery and perfume and low-cut blouses

Wet crimson tissue stains lips and cheek

She wears flimsy skirts that only come to her knees

She and the other girls dance half the night

Dancing too close with boys Mother dislikes.

She drinks and smokes and dances till three

She comes home through the window before anyone sees.

Listless and irritable, got no energy,

She seems so tired, mother tells the doctor

He prescribes a tonic to build and restore her

He recommends rest and taking it easy

Jazz Baby sniggers as he takes his leaves

She’s a bad girl, a rebel, dancing through life

The devil-may-care painted all over her face

In the Roaring 1920s, setting a new pace

She wants to live like a film-star

Away from the world of the shop and factory

Away from the drudge of everyday toil

She just wants to be free, have fun

She’ll henna her hair and wear skirts on the knee,

She‘ll smoke and drink and live a life that’s gay.

She’ll dance on stages all the world over,

For millionaires to lust for and women to envy.

‘It’s my life, Mother, and I’m going to live it!’

And her name she’ll change from parochial Doris,

And recreating herself she becomes

Bright and exotic Zonya!

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