Sweet Emma The Bell Gal - by Anthony Swann

New Orleans, 1962
Sweet Emma, The Bell Gal, wears a red dress,
red skull cap and a red garter with bells
that ring when she stomps her foot
in time to her piano playing while
singing songs like
"I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly-roll."
"Bill Baily," or "The Saints."
 
Keeps her life's savings stashed under her mattress
cause she doesn't dig banks.
A thief robs her while she sleeps.
Preservation Hall throws a benefit.
New Orleans high society turn out in a gown and suit to double her savings
which Emma places back under her mattress.
The thief comes again but Emma jumps up to grapple. He hits her in the eye and head,
is gone in the night with the bread.
Next next she gigs with the eyepatch covering a blackeye, a big knob shining on her forehead.
 
It's only money, Emma Barrett,
money can't buy how you survived on a song,
your warrior's spirit dressed in red,
colorful as carnival,
little, old, frail,
yet tough as a nail,
fiesty, free as Crescent City.