Chet Baker Album

David Hilton

"Finding a Chet Baker Album in the Dimestore 2-for-$1 Pile"

I

His face not much older than mine
in the class of '56 photo

when I gave in
borrowed my buddy's tie

split the back of his one-button roll
&said "Aw righty, jack,

take your picture, I'm beautiful."
Never bought a yearbook.

So finding him
in this stack of losers, flush

against a JFK memorium
& a Cleopatra soundtrack,

looking innocent of smack-
young-man-with-a-horn hair,

blue eyes wiped blank
like the "most creative" boy's

whose photo doesn't show he hides
fuckbooks under a railroad bridge

& jacks off like crazy, never going home,
as freight-cars couple overhead

blackening his clench-eyed scream
of pre-poetry

finding his blurred face, called
Polkadots and Moonbeams,

is a shock of looking back
into a mirror of lips that moaned

to suck on big strong poems
and blow the long

tough sweet tone
of that genius horn.

II

I was just too young,
17, to do it, to flee

across the Bay to beat cellars
where the wine, weed, jazz & poetry

were free! & too dumb & scared,
couldn't even grow a beard.

Years pass. Alone
as Adam: no choice

but get cool on my own:
chose, finally, women

& words: folksingers with long
brown hair, strong

on racial justice,
dialogue, meaningful relationships

(I always had to piss-
snuck 6-packs into the coffeehouse).

III

Years pass, delusions
of happiness, bliss,

as the Nation awoke
to suicide slowly, because

there was always we
& the bed would rush like Mingus

flow like Adderley
& curl & drift away

like the last lost breath
of Miss Anita O'Day, and she

would hold me preciously
until I couldn't hear

the bombs or smell the flesh
& words returned like high white geese

their honking falling lightly
a pure snow of sound

around our bed, around
my head, and

I thought it would never end.
But she found out, inevitably,

that it was true
what Grandma told me

what my father confirmed
& mother declined to deny,

that I was the Devil's child
cursed with a wild need

to find him, my real Pap,
the Devil-and to see a sign,

any clue, I'd rip
my bones apart & drink my brain.

Yes, she knew it was true:
I was crazy. So, so long, poet.

IV

But now, fuck it, I'd do it-
Go be a beatnik!

"Big Daddy Dave"
twining my lines

up the stems of his music
while graybeard angels

& devils nod in the smoke,
eyes shut forever, murmuring

cool cool cool heavenly
as if junk & Europe

never happened to him
nor her America to me.

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