“Blow baby,” I whisper when Chet Baker’s trumpet seeps
from the jukebox’s speakers into the thrum of the bar.
It’s a wet mix, this noise pollution, this cement churning
for a Friday night’s foundation. Outside I crush cigarettes
in the pavement. They blow away in the crepuscular breeze.
What genius conducts the jazz in the summer wind?
As it rolls through the trees, the limbs and leaves crackle
and hush like brushes on a snare. One night after a gig,
Chet lost his embouchure, all his teeth knocked out
trying to score a fix. He hid in the backseat of a car.
Now I’m in the backseat of mine, fixed to score
with a knockout, her embouchure adhered to my neck.
It’s a wet mix, her lips, the flop and twirl of her skirt
begging welts in my hips to plum out. I watch for cops.
And as the dark air whistles through the moon roof,
with each passing headlight, I whisper, “Go baby.”
Blow was a experiment where I wanted to use facts from someone else’s life as the motivating energy for the poem. I chose Chet Baker not just because I love Chet, but because the facts of the story are pretty intense (which, honestly, I think the intensity is lost in the poem a bit). He was beat up so miserably trying to buy drugs after leaving a bar one night that it completely changed the shape of his mouth and ruined his ability to play for a long time. Relating to Chet was a challenge; I couldn’t directly without it feeling contrived, so I went through contradiction — his night of drunk violence, his loss, became juxtaposed to mine of drunk passion, my gain — which ultimately felt jazziest to me.
The song ringing in my head when I wrote this was Let’s Get Lost; Chet sings more than plays the horn, but I think it’s pretty fitting. On a final note, I’ll say…it couldn’t have really happened in my car because the backseat is too small.
Patrick Boyle is a poet, currently finishing his MFA through the Bennington Writing Seminars. He is also the founder of Lamplighter, a magazine focused on supporting and promoting independent musicians, artists, and writers in New Jersey, where he loves to live regardless of the traffic.
To read more poems about jazz and drugs and sex and embouchure (including a hallowed meditation from Patrick on the nature of memory), order Four Chambers 01 here.