For Jazz

                Ben Webster

“Frog” for belligerence and a baleful look,
And for the belching tones delivered in a rage
When the tempo rose. He’d buzz and bark
And seem to fight to clear the stage,
And then relax into the broad, warm breeze
He blew, recumbent, couchant on the sound,
Speaking his natural tongue, that priceless ease,
Coaxing a sigh from the hardest reed he found.
Rex Stewart saw him comb his mother’s hair
When she was old, and this was Ben
Who cursed, who juiced, who tangled anywhere
With anyone, one of those double-hearted men
Who do not trust the beauty they can make,
And sometimes rip the canvas, for the gesture’s sake.