Friday, January 05, 2007

James Plays Augusta

And in the dream I awake from a dream to find myself in a thirty-three person gallery at Augusta National. Bruce Springsteen croons The River over a PA system hidden amongst the Georgia pines. A sunburned Northerner sways next to me sipping Mad Dog 20/20 from a blue Solo cup. I inhale the moment. A CAO Double Corona in one hand. A fresh Makers Mark in another hand. A third hand holds a leash to which is tethered a white Persian cat with porcelain blue eyes. The cat purrs in time to The River, a low percussion of sorts. The song fades to white noise and Bruce begins to rasp. “Ladies and Gentlemen—please welcome… The Hardest Working Man in Heaven, Mr. James Brown!”

A fog descends and lifts. With lowered head there stands James, black as beautiful midnight against a backdrop of perfection. You could hear a pine needle drop. And to the rhythm of thirty-three heartbeats, James slowly cuts a rug there on the 13th green at Augusta. The silent rub of his footwork as poignant as any song ever crafted.

In the slight distance, Sam Cooke pushes Aretha Franklin in a tire swing. Aretha, svelte and young, eases effortless over Rae’s Creek and back again.

On the periphery of 13, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye stand like brothers holding hands.

And in a blink the Vienna Boys’ Choir joins the Josey High School Marching Band. White children and black teens side by side in unison, clapping in metered synch, swaying to a roll of inspiration, marking history and legacy and hate and love and indifference and gratitude as it has rarely been marked.

And though I drink, the Makers replenishes itself. The air is still. The clouds dance in place above the pines. The white cat morphs to grey, unleashes himself and stands on two legs.

James continues to dance. He slides to and fro as though sock-footed on marble. Someone in the gallery whispers the words to Psalm 23.

Aretha glides again over the creek and back, begins to hum the tune to Georgia.

I awake three days later, my head heavy with drink. My heartache more pronounced. My distance from home further now by one more removed link.

My soul aching with the phantom pain of something missing.

Behind my eyes Sam Cooke winks at me in the deepest secret of night. Knowing what I will never know.

Nor should.