Stuff I Like - Lynda Hull:
 
Lynda Hull is a poet I first heard about around the time that Chet Baker died. I read her poem about Chet in The Paris Review, I believe. She brought a streetwise understanding to Chet and his heroin existence in Amsterdam. I'm not an academic-I couldnt give you an erudite criticism of Lynda's poetry-I just like it. I saw that she was reading in New York and I showed up. There were several other poets who were very good and who probably have a job teaching poetry at some university somewhere. Nothing wrong with that. A man's got to make a living. Then Lynda took the stage- podium, I should say. The room lit up! It was rock 'n roll minus the music-in fact, who needed the music. She spoke in a thick New Jersey accent and her face was like a beautiful Keith Richards-that is she'd been there and back, and it showed -in fact, it was probably against the odds that she'd made it back at all. After her "set" I went backstage and talked with her. I wanted to record an "album"of her reading her poetry. She looked at me as if I were just another silly boy enthralled with her-that is to say, she paid no attention to me at all. Shortly thereafter in 1994 I picked up the New York Times and was stunned but not suprised to see that she had died in a car crash on Cape Cod near age 40. I have no idea of the circumstances, but you knew looking at her that it was just a matter of time. Here is the Chet Baker poem. God bless her wherever she is.

Lost Fugue for Chet
by Lynda Hull

Chet Baker, Amsterdam, 1988

A single spot slides the trumpet's 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 horn's 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, mares' tails in the sky green
& violet. So easy to get lost, these cavernous

brown cafes. Amsterdam, & it's spectral fogs, it's
bars & softly shifting tugboats. He builds once more
the dense harmonic structure, the gabled houses.
Let's get lost. Why court the brink & then step back?

After surviving, what arrives? So what's the point
when there are so many women, creamy callas with single
furled petals turning in & in upon themselves
like variations, nights when the horn's coming

genius riffs, metal & spit, that consuming rush
of good dope, a brief languor burnishing
the groin, better than any sex. Fuck Death.
In the audience, there's 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. He's 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 & I'm trying
to recall names, songs, the sinuous figures, but facts
don't matter, what counts is out of pained dissonance,
the sick vivid green of backstage bathrooms, out of

broken rhythms - and I've 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 girl's
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 haunted rooms. Cold chestnuts flowering April
& you're 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.


     
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