Literature » Poetry

“For Keely Smith” — a poem by Diane Elayne Dees

Keely Smith, 1928 – 2017



For Keely Smith


Godmother of the gypsy tramp
half-breed goddess, unparalleled queen
of less is more, effortless weaver
of that old black magic—
your strength lay in the space between
the screaming sax and the scatting singer.
If midnight blue velvet were sound,
it would be your voice. The minimalist genius
of your body, your black bob, your slowly shifting
eyes, made everyone—men, women, drunks, gamblers,
boys in the band—stop in their tracks.
It also made you fade among the garish colors
of Vegas and the lurid trappings of fame.
But for those who heard you sing and saw
you swing, you live forever, the ultimate icon of cool.







Diane Elayne Dees‘s poetry and fiction have been published in many journals and anthologies. She frequently writes about performers; her sonnet about Joni Mitchell recently appeared in the poeming pigeon‘s “Poems about Music” issue. Diane, a semi-retired psychotherapist, lives in Covington, Louisiana. She publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that covers women’s professional tennis throughout the world.






Keely Smith, 1958, singing “When Day is Done”


With husband Louis Prima, singing “Just a Gigolo”


Smith and Prima, singing “That Old Black Magic”