Into Jazz

If I could go back anywhere in time, meet anyone, naturally Jesus would be high on my list. I’d be on a dusty path in Galilean noonday heat. He’d be sitting in the meadow with a handful of workers eating figs from a sack, sharing his bread, the land owner waddling up in his white caftan, red in the face, shouting, “Now look here, these men and women aren’t for hire!”

Jesus offers him a fig, saying “Asalam aleikam,” then stands up and walks over to me. He doesn't speak, just smiles, but his eyes are full of welcome. And that is all I need...

Of course I'd want to visit the garden of Vrindaban too, at the end of the previous age when human bodies were still more like moonbeams than bone. It would be midnight. I hide behind a tulsi tree, watching Lord Krishna dance with the cowherd girls. I linger and gaze only a moment, yet that gaze becomes a dark well from which I drink for ten thousand years…

I wouldn’t mind visiting the steps of the Acropolis either, back when that crinkled indefatigable elf sputtered wisdom like a leaky crank case, asking strange troubling questions to eager youths.

I whisper over his left shoulder, “Watch out old man, they're going to arrest you for this!” Then I vanish and Socrates chuckles to himself, cocking his head, muttering to the empty sky, “Is that so?” He turns back to the children and says, “My daimon just visited me...”

As for Adam and Eve, if they were ever real, I wouldn’t care to meet them, the old bores. But I'd like to visit their garden and look for Adam’s first wife, Lilith, inviting her to walk in the cool of the evening with me, by the edge of the forest, far from any patriarch…

Yet of all times and places, I'd most like to visit 1958, the Five Spot Café on the Lower East Side, a sultry August evening in smoky gin-scented air.
With tears in my eyes, I hunker lonely and white at a wooden table carved with initials like runes of some chthonic language filled with the wisdom of squandered lives, listening to lightning bolts from Johnny Griffin's tenor sax as he sits in with the Thelonious Monk Quartet.

This night, this play of shadows through the ineluctable ambiance of sorrow and beauty, an anonymous sacramental sign that we're all true fallen angels on the Earth, turning the light we bring down into jazz.

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