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 owner of the land
quickly approaching, 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 to the road
where his eyes greet mine but
he doesn't speak, just smiles
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 sunbeams than bone.
It would be midnight.
I'd 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,
looking older than his years, his
crank case sputtering wisdom, asked
troubling questions to eager youth.
I’d whisper, “Watch out old man, 
they're going to arrest you for this!”
I vanish and he chuckles to himself,
cocking his head and muttering
into the empty sky, “Is that so?”
Then Socrates tells the children,
“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 want 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 God…
Yet of all times and places,
I’d most want to visit 1958
on the Lower East Side
at the Five Spot Café,
a sultry August evening
in smoky gin-scented shadows.
There are tears in my eyes
alone at a wooden table, just
listening to the lightning
of the all but forgotten
tenor sax of Johnny Griffin,
who's sitting in with
Thelonious Monk's quartet
in one of those anonymous
sacramental signs that
we're all truly angels on Earth, 
here to turn the light we've
brought down with us
into jazz.