For Jazz

                Lester Young

Everything oblique to Lester: meaning,
Sound, everyone was ‘Lady’, and he wore
The tenor at an angle, sometimes leaning
Contrariwise in pictures, the model for
The hipsters of the forties. Those early days
He was the greyhound among the bulldogs, he sailed
Out of the section in his hundred darting ways,
Incorrigibly sly, and swift, and veiled.
On clarinet he foretold his fall, a listless
Lack of force not present in his streamlined tenor,
But in the slow decay of sonority and manner,
His final posture was, alone and restless,
Fingering keys he would not allow to speak.
Than which, forever, nothing could be more oblique.