Tribute to J.C. by K. Curtis Lyle (from Electric Church)

John Coltrane (1926-1967)

I wouldn’t go there.

Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968

You know
If I were   standing
At the beginning of time
And I had the ability
To view
The whole
Of human history
And the Most High
Lord of Creation
Asked me which age?
Which nation
Would you like to live in?
I would ask that my body
Be sent to Egypt
To become a hard poem
A block of granite
On the limestone face
Of the great pyramid
A reflector
Of the Great Sun

In spite of his magnificence
I wouldn’t stop there!
I would move on
With my flight of mind
To Meroe
Where the Queen of Sheba
Showed King Solomon
That wisdom
Sometimes is not enough
To overcome
The primal need to come
Where the word of Ethiopia
First cast her arms out over the world

in spite
Of her sexual offering
Her spiritual seduction
I wouldn’t stop there!
I would send my soul
On to Turkey
And the age of the Seljuk
And let it bask
In the eternal whirling
Of the Mevlevi Dervishes
Seek out their services
And sit
With Jallaludin Rumi
As he composed
His ultimate love song
The Mathnawi

I would pray with him
And kneel
And wait
In the mosque
For martyrdom
For the heel
Of ignorance and suspicion
And jealousy
To strike down
The only human being
Who could heal the rift
Seal the agreement
Give the gift
Of unconditional love
Back to Rumi
The ‘Kdir’
The one who is expected
But never accepted

I wouldn’t stop there!
I would send my spirit on
To the Harlem renaissance
Where James P. Johnson
And Lucky Roberts
And Willie ‘The Lion’
Weaned Duke Ellington
Where Booker T.
Confronted W.E.B.
And where Marcus Garvey
First materialized
The power of the Black sea
Where Langston met Zora
For a minute
But, there was nothing in it
Where Josephine first found time
To shine
Where Black was plentiful and beautiful
And real
And surreal
Where Ho Chi Minh
Washes dishes in a soup kitchen
In Harlem
Like a hermit
Waiting for terms
That would make his own revolution
Where at five in the afternoon
Federico Garcia Lorca crooned
The Poem In New York

In spite of the Black fire
From the western world’s
First Black capitol
I wouldn’t stop there!
I would move on
Into the twenty-sixth year
Of the twentieth century
To be exact
By the time and clock
The autumn equinox
And I would watch the birth
Of a baby
To a Kongo father
And a Yoruba mother
In a hamlet
In North Carolina

His swaddling clothes
His oppressed and marginal status
Remind us
Of another place another time
Another baby
With the same initials

In spite of the prophetic signs
And the changing times
I wouldn’t stop there!
Strangely enough
I would turn to the Most High
Lord of Creation
The Living God
And say
“If you would allow me to live for six years,
in the second half of the twentieth century,
I will be satisfied. If you would allow me
To live from 1961-1967,1 will be satisfied.”

The ride ends February 1,1961
It’s done!
We’re at the IT club, in L.A.
There’s no way
We can get in to see Trane
We’re children
Both seventeen
Me and Charles
That means there ain’t no hope
But we stand, anyway, outside the door
Waiting for just a wisp of the horn
That has kept us alive
And whole and soulful
In the midst of this American nonsense
This pretense that there was life on earth
Before Trane
The guy at the door
About six foot four
Is eyeing us
It looks like a bust
As he moves directly toward us
Presumably to make our day
But instead of shoo-fly, don’t bother me
The brother invites us in
Treats us like men
And we ain’t got a dime
For us
It’s now prime time
In L.A.

Trane and Elvin
McCoy and Jimmy
Are making the place
Shake and shimmy
But it’s mostly Elvin and Trane
Both shorter than I thought
More muscular
The music stands against their flesh
Like spiritual wrought iron
The time is heat seeking
We’re in a sweat
Trane’s horn is hanging and singing
Humping and screaming
No more song, no more form
No more song, no more form
No more song, no more form
Four dead Black girls will be reborn
In Alabama, In Alabama, In Alabama

Suddenly Trane’s lips burst
First they soak the mouthpiece
Then the blood runs down his arm
And circles his waist
Like a red sash
We’re past the points of reason
And strategy and mind
We’re outside of time
Inside pure energy
No more song, no more form
No more song, no more form
No more song, no more form
Four dead Black girls will be reborn
In Alabama, In Alabama, In Alabama

Trane’s head is a flame
A blood red burnt crimson lake
The stakes are so high
And spiritually
I turn on Charles
My own mind coming apart
And start screaming

I’ll stop right there!


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