To a Prospective Novelist

To A Prospective Novelist*

For “K.C.”

I’ll need time to interpret your voice..
To develop an ear for your tone..
‘Cause there’s this cosmopolitan melody
in your voice
That traces meaning in library tomes,
That outlines motive in diverse people,
The way Sidney Bechet had
ahm, ..this urbane facility
For moving crosstown —
“From café society uptown
(said the Voice of America critic)
To café society downtown” —
Blowing eclectic brilliance
Through all wind-filled registers
Of his ebony-silver Chicago clarinet.

So, ..why this metaphor linking cadence
in your voice
To Sidney’s sophistication with his B-flat reed,
When jazz cognoscenti have popularly hailed
His personal penchant for soprano sax?
Well .., this specific figure
Follows your voice’s ease of transposition
Between the different entertainment spots
That words, concepts, and rationale, patronise.
Yet, uppermost on my heart’s ledger-lines
Is that rare, rarefied feeling in your voice
That I do not ever want to lose,
The way that tape I’d made
Of a priceless VOA broadcast
Elucidating Bechet as clarinetist,
Disappeared.

by Harold A. Beckles
(1989.02.11) [* © At Random, vol 1, 1990; © Ex Umbra, vol. 32, 1996]