A poem by Roy Kelly
Roy Kelly’s work appears from time to time in the kind of magazines that still print poetry (there’s one of his in this week’s Spectator). He was born in 1949, and Peterloo Poets published a collection of his work under the title Drugstore Fiction in 1987. Having read my piece on Chet Baker, he sent me this. I wanted to publish it before the summer ends, and he was kind enough to give me permission.
THE COOL SCHOOL
The folded parasols stand guard and stand by,
sentinels of the pool and sunbeds, swathes
of white material fluttering, gathered, ready to spring
up and out, defending this tender skin which bathes
in water, and also in damaging rays that fly
through millions of miles to inflame and sting.
And in the pool a figure is moving through
the ruffled, bubbled surface, the illusory
blue depths, trying to improve a swimming action
while remembering a Chet Baker solo,
the shapely lovely logic of all he blew,
placed note by note, as if physical effort had no
part in his disciplined, pretty perfection,
and the needle life some other loser’s story.
Puffing and chugging the salty outdoor pool
the swimmer tries at least to get the breathing right,
economical, smooth, under the watchful white
umbrellas, and Mr Chet, lyrical, pure and cool.