Lost Fugue for Chet

Lynda Hull

 
Chet Baker, Amsterdam, 1988  
A single spot slides the trumpetís flare then stops
    at that face, the extraordinary ruins thumb-marked
with the hollows of heroin, the rest chiaroscuroed.
    Amsterdam, the final gig, canals & countless
stone bridges arc, glimmered in lamps. Later this week
     his Badlands face, handsome in a print from thirty
years ago, will follow me from the obituary page
     insistent as windblown papers by the black cathedral
of St. Nicholas standing closed today: pigeon shit
     & feathers, posters swathing tarnished doors, a litter
of syringes. Junkies cloud the gutted railway station blocks
     & dealers from doorways call coca, heroina, some throaty
foaming harmony. A measured inhalation, again
     the sweet embouchure, metallic, wet stem. Ghostly,
the hornís improvisations purl & murmur
     the narrow strasses of Rosse Buurt, the district rife
with purse-snatchers, women alluring, desolate, poised
     in blue windows, Michelangelo boys, hair spilling
fluent running chords, maresí tails in the sky green
     & violet. So easy to get lost, these cavernous
brown cafťs. Amsterdam, & its spectral fogs, its
     bars & softly shifting tugboats. He builds once more
the dense harmonic structure, the gabled houses.
     Letís get lost. Why court the brink & then step back?
After surviving, what arrives? So whatís the point
     when there are so many women, creamy callas with single
furled petals turning in & upon themselves
     like variation, nights when the hornís coming
genius riffs, metal & spit, that rich consuming rush
     of good dope, a brief languor burnishing
the groin, better than any sex. Fuck Death.
     In the audience, thereís always this gaunt man, cigarette
in hand, black Maserati at the curb, waiting,
     the fast ride through mountain passes, descending with
no rails between asphalt & precipice. Inside, magnetic
     whispering take me there, take me. April, the lindens
& horse chestnuts flowering, cold white blossoms
     on the canal. Heís lost as he hears those inner voicings,
a slurred veneer of chords, molten, fingering
     articulate. His glance below Dutch headlines, the fall
"accidental" from a hotel sill. Too loaded. What do you do
     at the brink? Stepping back in time, I can only
imagine the last hit, lilies insinuating themselves
     up your arms, leaves around your face, one hand vanishing
sabled to shadow. The newsprint photo & Iím trying
     to recall names, songs, the sinuous figures, but facts
donít matter, what counts is out of pained dissonance,
     the sick vivid green of backstage bathrooms, out of
broken rhythms—and Iíve never forgotten, never—
     this is the tied-off vein, this is 3 a.m. terror
thrumming, this is the carnation of blood clouding
     the syringe, you shaped summer rains across the quays
of Paris, flame suffusing jade against a girlís
     dark ear. From the trumpet, pawned, redeemed, pawned again
you formed one wrenching blue arrangement, a phrase endlessly
     complicated as that twilit dive through smoke, applause,
the pale hunted rooms. Cold chestnuts flowering April
     & youíre falling from heaven in a shower of eighth notes
to the cobbled street below & foaming dappled horses
     plunge beneath the still green waters of the Grand Canal.
 
Copyright © 2006 by Lynda Hull. Reprinted from Star Ledger with the permission of the University of Iowa Press.

Further Reading

Poems about Jazz
Howl, Parts I & II
by Allen Ginsberg
At the Blue Note
by Pablo Medina
Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio
by Carl Sandburg
Jazz Fan Looks Back
by Jayne Cortez
Ken Burns poem
by Sean Singer
Listening to jazz now
by Jimmy Santiago Baca
Poem at Thirty
by Michael Ryan
Soledad
by Robert Hayden
The Gardenia
by Cornelius Eady
We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Poems about Music
08/22/08
by David Lehman
A Book Of Music
by Jack Spicer
A Score for Tourist Movies
by Mary Austin Speaker
A Violin at Dusk
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Alexander's Feast; or, the Power of Music
by John Dryden
B-Sides from my Idol Tryouts
by Harmony Holiday
Beagle or Something
by April Bernard
Fiddler Jones
by Edgar Lee Masters
Get Up, Please
by David Kirby
Go Greyhound
by Bob Hicok
Here and Now
by Stephen Dunn
Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio
by Carl Sandburg
Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
by John Donne
Hymn to the Night
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Interlude: Still Still
by Robin Behn
Latin & Soul
by Victor HernŠndez Cruz
Little Fugue
by Marianne Boruch
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
Mozart
by Caroline Knox
Ode to Lilí Kim in Florence
by Barbara Hamby
On 52nd Street
by Philip Levine
Passing Through Albuquerque
by John Balaban
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
Record
by Katrina Vandenberg
Street Music
by Robert Pinsky
The Banjo Player
by Fenton Johnson
The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1974
by Quincy Troupe
The Everyday Enchantment of Music
by Mark Strand
The Guitar
by Federico GarcŪa Lorca
The Last Evening
by Steven Kronen
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
The Supremes
by Mark Jarman
The Waltz We Were Born For
by Walt McDonald
The Weary Blues
by Langston Hughes
The World Doesnít Want Me Anymore, and It Doesnít Know It
by Sean Singer
Two Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance
by John Cage
Untitled
by David Meltzer
Water Music
by Robert Creeley