An excerpt from "The Lake of Love"

amazon cover copy lake of love

The Lake of Love: A Philosophical Journey

As he descended the plateau, he exalted in nature. He saw the azure-blue skies stretching protectively above his head, and around him he saw beauty unveiled. The green of the grass was of a tone he had never before quite seen. It seemed to have a restorative effect on him. The flowers were beautiful. Multicoloured, as if a rainbow had exploded in the skies and the little splittings of colour had showered themselves upon the fields. Was this real? He thought back to the world of men. Had he ever seen anything so beautiful? No. Not ever. Not once.

He strolled through these fields briskly. Much as they delighted his eyes and watered the garden that was his soul, he could tarry not even for a single second. His eyes were focused yet detached. Paradise was still in front.

And then there was a lake…

As he approached the valley …. suddenly and for the first time, he noticed a lake that nestled right in the heart of the greens, stretching wide into the woods on either side, but perhaps only about forty or sixty strides across. He hesitated for one second, his eyebrows lifted. He had not seen the lake from the top of the plateau.. He had not been looking into the valley, but only up at the Land of Bliss.

But only for a moment did he hesitate. His strides picked up speed and certainty once more and he headed straight for the lake. After crossing seven seas, amongst other things, a little lake was not going to bother him in any way now that he was so close to the Land.

As he neared the lake, it suddenly dawned on him that nature seemed to have changed. It appeared to have come alive. Suddenly the grass was whispering, but whispering what? He could tell not. The leaves were talking, but talking to whom – to him, or simply to themselves? The wind sang a song, a wordless song, and from the sides of his eyes he thought he could catch the flashy movements of little things. Almost like little human beings. Little human-like beings? He swung his head sharply on all sides…nothing. Only the green, beautifully decorated fields. The enchanting woods.

In him something began to stir. He knew that there was a discussion going on in nature, a conversation, an exchange of opinions…or, wait, a message?
Again Scimarajh hesitated. He wanted to find out what was going on around him. Or, rather, a part of him wanted to – the curious part…or, is it, the cautious part? But the larger part of him, the adventurer who had surmounted high and low, the seeker who had journeyed tirelessly, was impatient.

Move on! The command thundered forcefully within him, borne of a long–persevering hunger, a long-unfulfilled desire. So he tore his attention away from the mysterious, imperceptible activity going on around him and quickly took the last brisk strides that brought him to the edge of the lake.

The lake was silent. Motionless. Clear as the surface of a perfectly-polished mirror. Still.

Scimarajh gazed at it, equally silent, equally still. His mind ticked. A deep seriousness, immense and grave, settled over his beautiful countenance.
There was something about this lake on which he could not place his finger. Something mysterious. Something as yet unfathomed. Unravelled. And yet, why did he get the impression that he had seen this lake before? He looked at the lake and the lake looked back at him with his own eyes, his own face, his own self. Who knows himself? Scimarajh?

But other thoughts than these occupied him. How deep was the lake? How safe? He was not deceived by the apparent calm of the lake. The last months and years of his life had brought him danger in all forms, at unexpected turns, and he had learned to take nothing for granted. Not even a little lake.
He looked about. Nature’s voice had increased in volume. So Scimarajh calmed down. By his feet lay a long, thin pole. He picked it up and, holding it at one end, slowly immersed it into the water of the lake. Nothing. Presently he revolved his hand, stirring the water and all the while peering pin-point sharp into it, tense and concentrated.

After a long time of testing and watching, investigating, checking and waiting, his body slowly relaxed; the skin around his eyes, formerly tightened, smoothened out again and he let the faithful pole back out of the lake, carefully replacing it back down by his feet where it had formerly lain.

The lake was safe, just like any other.

Now that he had become satisfied of that, his movements again became brisk and sure. Speedily he took off his garments, knelt down in the soft, mossy grass and folded them. Then he opened up his little back-pack and gazed with delighted eyes at its contents.

Three beautiful precious stones, his sole possessions and objects of his deep love. He had acquired them laboriously through his long, long journeys. And he guarded them with all his might, for without them he would never make his way into the Land of Bliss. His former teacher, the Master of the Sea, had told him so himself. And he was going to present them to the King of Joy when he finally made his entry into the Land of Bliss.

He could not suppress the cry of joy that escaped his lips as his heart soared in these thoughts. Then he came back to the moment. To work! To work! Quickly, but very neatly, he folded his faithful garments one more time and arranged them inside the back-pack. Then, arising anew, he strapped the pack unto his back and prepared to dive in. He concentrated.

Suddenly he heard it. Loud and clear!

A voice.

“Do not dive into the Lake of Love!” –

Scimarajh started up, whipped his head around, saw nobody. He looked and looked. Nothing stirred. Nature had quietened again. Had he heard wrong? He listened hard and heard absolute silence communing with itself.

The silence filled him like a wave.

His head began to swim. Not for a second did it occur to him to immerse himself in the feeling. To know what it was. Rather he resisted it. What?, he thought. After getting so close?! … No way! …

He shook his head vigorously and sharpened his eyes on the silver-surface of the lake. I must have heard wrong, he told himself repeatedly, remembering the mirages he once used to see in the deserts and the imaginary sounds he once also heard in the forests when tension was high. It must be the same phenomenon, he assured himself, and the nearness of the end of my journey is making me dizzy.

In his heart of hearts, however, a contrary intuition stirred, but he drowned it with the clamour of his thoughts, and his desire.

Bent at the knee … tensed his muscles … breathed in … and dived in …

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

IHE Ị NA-ACHỌ

Ị hụ ụzọ - drawing by Okam Abraxxzas

Kedu ihe ị na-achọ?
Ị ma?
Ị teta n’ụtụtụ…, ị rahụọ n’anyasị…
Kedu ebe ị na-aga?
Kedu ihe ị na-achọ?

Ị were anya tinye m n’anya… – !
Kedu ihe ị na-achọ n’anya m?
Kedu ihe ị na-achọ na mpkụrụ-obi m?
Kedu ihe ị na-achọ ebe nile?
Ị ma?

A ma m na ị maghị ihe ị na-achọ…
A ma m na ị maghị ihe ị na-achọ…
Mụ na gị, anyị abụọ ma na ị maghị ihe ị na-acho…
Ma chọ ba, chọ ba, chọ ba ya…
Chọ ba aha ihe ahụ ị na-achọ, nwanne m…

Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

ZU KURZ

Für eine ganz kurze Zeit
Hat sie mich glücklich gemacht –
Ich vergaß meine Komplexe
Fühlte meine Wunden heilen
Und machte jeden
Der mit mir zu tun hat
Glücklich.

Was ist ein Gedicht wert?
Weniger Worte sagen mehr, muß es sein
Denn seit ich sie plötzlich verstand
Wich alle Freude wieder zurück –
Und alle, die mit mir zu tun haben
Verstehen mich nicht mehr.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

KENNY GARRETT’S DEFINITELY PUSHING MY WORLD SOMEWHERE

Well, there I was, trapped in a plane on a long-distance flight again and wondering what to do with my time. Tired of watching movies, too wired up to read, and having nothing to write about, I tuned into Lufthansa Radio and all of a sudden, I thought: It’s a whirlwind! But… thank goodness, no, it’s really A Side Order Of Hijiki – and how on earth this is supposed to push the world away beats me. It certainly startles the world though, and pushes away every distraction, making me listen up to what follows next on the album. The silence after track one is short but deafening.

Do I hear John Coltrane in what comes next? I know Kenny Garrett got his start with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and for a while played with Miles Davis. Yet I hear so strong Coltrane in his strains, his lines. Or maybe it’s a way of life, a line of thinking, a point of view and a time in history that walks the streets of similar minds. It’s a pleasure listening to Kenny Garrett’s latest album “Pushing The World Away” (2013, Mack Avenue Records). When the music weeps, it weeps for you. You don’t need to shed the tears yourself. Just listen to them. But then I realised that that was just track two, Hey, Chick.

And then the third track hit the needle. Chucho’s Mambo. A lending from Bossanova, a borrowing from cha cha, kissing latin with a jazzy tongue, mambo all the way. The first section is a happy arriving at an occasion where a chatty hornsman in talkative mood takes over the second part of the music. Now, finally, I hear the brotherhood to Miles Davis. Until, as the song moves towards its final movement, Garrett once again lets the latin rhythms take over and ride you to the end.

There is something, not sentimental, more like reflective, about the fourth track, Lincoln Center, when it starts. The straight-flying horn section pulls you down into the listening, thinking, seat, ready you to pay attention to the piano’s soliloquy that follows. When the solo horn – an alto sax that sounds like it just wants to be alone – follows through, is it anger or upset we hear? What’s paining him? Memories from the past?

Africa here we come in track five – J’ouvert (Homage to Sonny Rollins). Hey. Africa found a home in the Caribbean and then reinvented herself. And if Rollins heard it, Garrett’s heard it too. Sometimes things need to change in order to stay the same. The interplay of tropical horns, thumping bass, clapping hands, the subtlest of jazz, and a trumpet that has not forgotten where it came from, this defines happy intoxication. You hear it here, like a lingering memory that keeps on rebirthing itself.

Track six. That’s It. It’s smooth rhythmic jazz, lightly reminiscent of the class of Coltrane’s Equinox. But only in a different way. In all its melodious pleasuring, it retains its own unique identity..

Kenny Garrett starts track seven like a moon that went on a walk and marvelled at the beauty of the world. Little wonder that his thoughts go up to its Creator, and he titles the song I Say A Little Prayer. Sit back and let him play you the melody of what his heart saw. But it’s no ordinary moon, it’s a saxophone.

Track eight finally got the album title right. Pushing The World Away is in five-four time and fails not to produce the near metaphysical effect of this complex time signatory jazz. The conversation between sop sax and drums, cheered on and temporarily interrupted by the nodding piano right behind them, drives the piece from its first notes. Now agreeing with, now dissenting against each other, they hurry the heady piece along to its distant end. A curiousum about this piece are the alien-like native voices that pray additional harmonies into this strange song. If this doesn’t push the world away, nothing will. But when the world’s away, maybe the light will play.

Piano and Sax promise contemplation on track nine, Homma San. In truth, they promise romance, yearning for fulfilment, far away from the world. Then it comes, the voice of yearning, a sole female moaner, and the effect is complete. The alto saxophone tells the rest of the story, in retrospect.

No, track nine was not contemplation; track ten – Brother Brown – is. Definitely. Sombre is the piano, but not as sombre as the horn dragging his sorrows along in the background. This is only the beginning, tenderly brushed by a very understanding drummer. Go deeper. The mellow mood that began a track earlier is continued here. And does Brother Brown not just make you think of Louis Armstrong?

Alpha Man, track eleven, picks up the pace again. The sax hits the ground running and you get the feeling that you just have to hurriedly follow, anxious to know where he is going, whipped on by the hi-hat.

Rotation makes a nice lively end to this astonishingly lovely jazz album. No wonder this album got a grammy nomination. Seamless blend of tradition and innovation, birthed less than two years ago, and yet this sounds like 2015 and 1950 all at the same time and all shades of blue in between. Bravo, Kenny Garrett! This album is as good on air as it is in print, and definitely worth recommending.

But of course as my luck likes to have it, I always discover the nice things just before they’re over. And just as I wrote these last words while listening to the finals notes of Rotation, the plane landed and the entertainment programme was turned off, pushing the world right back where it was before. But the memory of the music, it shall linger…

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

GUIDANCE

Guidance

There is a certain guidance
In our lives…
Birth was not the beginning
Death is not the end
If you remembered your beginning
You would understand why
Your path is the way it is
And why your end will be
The way it’s going to be…

There is a certain guidance
In our lives…
The inner voice has something to say
Echo of Creation’s prod
You do not heed your inner voice
Because you do not know
What you are supposed to be
You are confused by what you see
And cling to the wrong thoughts…

There is a certain guidance
Anchored in your inner voice…
You have to go the whole path
Only then will you reach
The end of your suffering
The beginning of your joy.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

BEFORE I DIE

Life is a vineyard
I’m thinking of wine, you know wine?
Internalise life in little sips
Don’t rush me, don’t rush you
Life even then is strong enough.

Life is a graveyard
You pass it by, reluctant to look in
It scares you
Littered with the memories of the reflection
Of your certain destiny
It brings you into deepest reflection
Most sober. Life, you scare me to death.

Before I die I want to love somebody
I need to love somebody
I cannot just come and go like that
I want to love somebody with all my heart
With all my heart
At least once in my life.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

ALL I NEED IN THIS LIFE OF SIN

There is something about being different –
People can’t place their finger on it, can’t say why…
Some think it’s your colour
Some think it’s your hair
Some think it’s your religion, your culture, your upbringing and education –
Whence is the origin of that which is deeper than style?

Well, when God sunk me, a melody,
Into the soils of soul searching
He must have watered me with the laughter of your wellspring
Because you are my taste
When I feed upon His Word –
Ssshh, I say no more.

Blessed be he, that wandering bard,
Who in sweet swansong sighed and said:
“All I need in this life of sin
Is me and my girlfriend.”
I know what you mean, Tupac.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

AT THE HOSPITAL

In the hospital waiting room
It was not the sick who were ailing
But the healthy who accompanied them

I saw more worry in the eye
Of many a mother
Many thoughts on the brow of
Each accompanying husband

I saw that love shares burdens
And carries them doubly
And friendship will go the extra mile
And family is a wordless wonder
And the heart is the deepest mystery on earth.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.