Chet Baker’s Return

by Paul Austin


night club no time

lighted juke box music,

pockets of muffled chatter

from expectant patrons

scatter about low hung basement

silent figure in navy vee-neck,

beat-up jeans, slippered feet,

zeroes in unseen and

appears on raised space

thin, hurt body back from exile

contracts into bentwood chair…

crouches round Eucharistic horn

tongue wets lips fingers

pump valves

ba-da-dup, ba-da-dup

ba-da-dup, ba-da-dup

right hand sets mic

left foot taps tempo

biddle-dee-doomp, biddle-dee


biddle-dee-doomp, biddle-dee


penitential eyes

glance at glass on piano top,

then enter private quiet

audience hushes

jaw moves, damaged chops

vibrate old tunes jotted on new



audience waits


cash ring echoes,

room dims,

juke box groans,

goes dark

glasses clink, speak

in whiskey whispers

hush within hush

trumpet rests in still life,

summons a breath

and the room is sound,

only sound…

ancient, ragged edged –

pure of what it was

way back when he didn’t know

he’d have to suffer so much

to remain the same.


Originally published in This Land: Fall 2015.