The whole story was slipshod,
from working the docks of Ancona
to chasing Chet Baker around the country –
desolate, emaciated, playing all smears
and blurs, shooting up once
in the cathedral of San Ciriaco. It wasn’t music
I was after, it was a mood, black ink:
there was a balcony
where they held him over the edge, shaking
the change out of him, finally dropping him
a story or two. And where was I then,
the biography of no interest
beyond raising up massive wooden boxes
or cargo, coffins shipped from
one place to another. Our connection:
How do I get what’s coming to me?
The Roman arches, the view of the sea
so blue you could almost forgive the leaden
afternoons after work, with no one to do
in the bars: I had no art to speak of. He at least
was beautiful once, sweet-voiced, boyish –
everybody wanted him. His story was stupid,
a romance with squalor, but I wanted to steal it.
Attend to me someone: you who lent him a trumpet.
I had before me that one perfect night
in Recanati, his last, perfect as I remember it.
His “I Thought about You” completely parenthetical,
on pitch, full of ideas he got from Miles,
but it shook us enough to send me back to the States.
When the set was over he smiled, toothless, at all six of us.
I mean we didn’t want to die then, being human.