Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0011 Chet Baker Sings And Plays: A Homage - Poem by Michael Shepherd

That’s the word we use
for the abrupt suddenness
of the old rubber-squeezed car horn
on the outside, by the driving seat
of the old battered Ford

and unforgettably for the anguished heart,
the bugle on the battlefield
as stretcher-bearers move in gathering dusk,
the final drawn-out, liquid, haunting pa-a-a-rp.... dies away
to pregnant, bloody silence;
death after life; life after death.

and then the sound of the civilian trumpet
in the days of the uneasy, hopeful postwar peace
hitting our eardrums, calling to attention,
stirring our blood
or perversely,
making the silence in between the notes
more silent, more laid back, more significant,
as if to say, how quickly
rest may follow action, action rest,
hot, cool; cool, hot;

So trumpet can be voice; voice, trumpet;
behind them, heart and mind, and mood and mode
sing, even whisper, you’re unforgettable,
that’s what you are; there will never be
another you; that’s how it is;
if you don’t know what love is,
I’ll play it to you; maybe sing..

his husky, boyish voice,
a hint of Oklahoma on Pacific shores,
sang – sings – the standards tenderly
as if they are the given texts for all mankind
of this new day of love; they apply
to him, and you; and everyone; so
he makes no pretence he thought them first; .
yet, in the long pauses in his singing, he's thinking them into now.

then as the line’s still finishing, his trumpet
turns the words to comment, as the cage is opened,
the bird flies out and up, released to joy
in boundless air and space;

as if it were outside the soundproofed recording studio
but recognised the song; and knew itself as free,
soaring high in sad songs or in glad songs,
knowing them the same at heart,
as a trumpet soars its notes
out over the Pacific air as gulls call to the waves,
singing liberty, equality, fraternity -
I’m telling you what love is

Comments about 0011 Chet Baker Sings And Plays: A Homage by Michael Shepherd

  • (2/21/2007 7:16:00 AM)

    'civilian trumpet' ...i love how those two simple words contrasted the two previous stanzas so succinctly. Chet Baker is one of those jazz trumpeters you don't hear much about. it's always Miles or Dizzy. Geniuses in their own right, but it's time Chet had his due. nice tribute, mate.


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  • (10/28/2006 7:16:00 AM)

    Your words capture that evocative trumpet sound from the first parp. The piece oozes musicality, using the old lyrics to convey the mood and cool of the jazz scene. A splendid tribute to this master musician, whose notes soared like birds and who looked like another James Dean, before the heron took hold. Sad sad sad... love, Allie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Report)Reply

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  • (10/16/2006 6:12:00 AM)

    I like this interplay between trumpet and voice. And what a nice tribute to Chet, tying in titles. Coincidentally, this last week I was listening to him sing 'There Will Never Be Another You.' Or as we used to call it, 'Shepherd's Lament.' (Report)Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, October 16, 2006

Poem Edited: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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