Photograph of Chet Baker

A face like penance  

or perhaps just somebody looking down  

at the keys of a piano.  

Most things appear twice,  

but not the piano hinge of course.  

The face, the hair – justifiably so.  

But the matinee idol looks  

always alluded to something not quite him.  

Something to escape from.  

A trumpet player who sang,  

a singer who played trumpet –  

he had two sets of front teeth,  

the first ruined in a fight  

along with his embouchure.  

The next, a denture, built to last.  

The years in Europe,  

a home-from-home.  

A classic second act –  

the trumpets on Shipbuilding  

and Live at Ronnie Scott’s.  

A new generation, another bite  

(not at art, but at a career).  

A film of his life that wasn’t his life.  

In Amsterdam he fell out of a window.  

The police report states  

that the two substances found in his room  

were also found in his body. 

from 'Country Music' (Offord Road Books, 2020), © Will Burns 2020, used by permission of the author.

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Will Burns is a poet and novelist. He first came to prominence in 2014 as a Faber New Poet and has since authored poetry collections ...