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How Chet Baker Died by Barry Gifford

    Poems from the acclaimed author of Roy’s WorldWild at Heart, and many other works

    The first words in Barry Gifford’s new poetry collection say it all—“Here I am wasting time again / writing poems to keep myself company” — doing what he has ever done, surprising his readers in kaleidoscopic prisms of color, turning every breath into a story, and himself into his most colorful character.

    She stood and walked across the lawn
    past the cottage and into the big house.
    He stayed to watch the last of the sunset,
    waiting for the flash of green.
    When it was finally dark and there was
    no moon and the fireflies appeared,
    he got up and began walking toward the house.
    He loved the Italian word for firefly,
    lucciola. She was like that, flickering
    on and off from moment to moment.
    As he approached the house, he could hear
    her singing: Vogliatemi bene, un bene
    piccolino. It’s so strange, he thought,
    life’s so fast and time’s too slow.
    He stopped and watched the fireflies.

    Or this:

    In my dream someone asked me if
    I remembered Frank Jackson
    Hearing this name brought tears
    to my eyes though I’ve never
    known anyone by that name

    The mystery in these poems lives just beyond the province of words. In a strange way, Barry Gifford’s poems tell a wordless story, freed of the writer’s art. “It’s dangerous to remember / so much, especially for a writer / The temptation to make sense / of it is always there / where you and I / are no longer.” Daily life, family and friends, are much more important here than books. The beauty and elusiveness of women and music are of utmost importance, far more so than literature. As he attests: “I prefer music to poems, words don’t
    live the same way—so, listen.”