by Mabie Settlage1998
100 page booklets describing recording dates
“Transitions”-words about the quartet
“Coltrane was exploring the upper
Register of his horn…”
Oh-did the writer neglect to mention what he was really doing, and
What was happening to me?
That it was in the “upper register”
That the veil of heaven was torn
That the curtain of perception
Of consciousness was pulled back
That I was
Thrust off the lithosphere
Through the spheres
To the Cosmos
Lifted to greet the cosmic eternity
The truth--for the first time to know
God is not a white man-
Not white not a man
That the eternal clash and quiet
Of cosmic infinity can be
Put in to aural meditation
Lifting out of the ooze of ego and mundane
The eternal truth
Worth living for worth dying for
The infinite pulse of creation
The breath of prayer
The crash of destruction and blush of reconstruction
Embers flying up
Water falling lightly
Flames and floods birth death eternal
Flames and floods birth death eternal
Air and brass and reed
Tongue and teeth
Seeds bursting in soil
Novas blazing to orgasm. Super giant
Spent to dwarf
Leaves in the wind
A pond’s reflection
The smell of family
The wonder of the unknown
Pushing red hot through the crust
Red to grey-flowing to still
In crystal reflection
The best there is
The highest brights blessing
Light and Love
The almighty eternal creative essential
The “nameless uncarved block”
The lost breath to catch
The moment of death
The awareness of eternal life
The cosmic consciousness
Explored in that upper register
Of Coltrane’s horn.
Dreams Of Africa
by Mabie Settlage
The sun is cresting on a rounded mountain top of grasses and trees. The mist is rising on others below and grey vapors of water and sunlight are rising around mango, neem, kanpech and coco palms.
The path to the big road is rocky, at times steep, at times with mud so dense it can suck shoes off, is full of travelers. People from “lod bo”, the other side of the river, farmers and their hardworking wives carry goods to the nearby markets of La Chappel and Dezam.
Their farms grow beans, grapefruit, corn, rice, mangoes, breadfruit, and yams. In this dry season, some take the small boats poled across the now shallow river, some put their clothing and goods on their heads, and guide their mules and horses through the water, to the other side. If goats are to go to market, the little boats can be filled with them. Once on the road, they are tied by their feet on the country tap taps (small trucks that can carry seemingly unlimited cargo). People, big sacks of charcoal, fruit or vegetables, livestock, pigs, mules, suitcases, mattresses stacked up 10 at a time.
Business The business of country living, found all over the world, where people depend on their land, its water and their Gods. All of this is carrying on just 90 minutes flying time South of Miami, next door to Cuba, an amazing slice of Africa, the island nation of Haiti.
Most Americans speak of Haiti in tragic terms, and tragedy has long stalked this remarkable place. Yes, from its first free minutes it has been conspired against, invaded, militarized, invaded again (and many times again), destabilized, plundered, its leaders with promise assassinated or exiled, its brutal dictators supported by the most powerful country in the world.
How and why has its history been thus?
In the beginning, after the bloody defeat of the indigenous Arawaks, it was a cruel slave colony, driven by brutal French who created a system where it was cheaper to work Africans to death and import more, than to provide conditions for their survival. The French grew impossibly rich, sugar and coffee for the tables of Europe. Their cruelty, and license to do with Africans as they pleased, led to a depravity, a horror of torture and elegance. It led to the madness of the Marquis de Sade-sadism found its origin here.
And around the campfires, the slaves dreamed of Africa, of restoration of their freedom. So many had only just been wrenched from their homes years earlier. The Americas were full of slavery. Every settled country led with Christ, capitalism and white supremacy. Many whites actually believed the awful system was designed by God and sought, and found, justification in the Bible.
The Africans believed no such thing, and planned and consulted with their God, their spirits, their Lwa, and started a revolution, still unfinished, that rocked the world. Begun in a ceremony in Bwa Kayma, in the North in 1791, and building, retreating, pushing forward, falling back, bringing forth the revolutionary heroes, Toussaint La Overture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Fatima, Henri Christophe, the revolution routed the French. Fierce fighting, brilliant strategy, spiritual confidence led the enslaved to force the path to independence. Toussaint, betrayed, when offered a deal by Napoleon, was exiled to a frozen mountain fortress in France.
Dessalines fought the French until victory was won at the battle of Vetye and with that victory, declared to all the world that Africans were not made by God to be slaves. The slaving countries panicked, tried to re-invade and failed. They used economic treachery and brute force to keep the revolution from its full fruit, and thereby they hoped to deny an example to the slaves in other countries.
Dessalines named “Haiti” from the Arawak name for the island, Ayiti. The nation withstood the first embargo, a sanction blockage for the first time in history, imposed by none other than Thomas Jefferson. The French forced Haiti to pay “reparations” to the slave masters, pay in money what was bought with blood, 100,000,000 gold francs gone from the treasury that could have gone for schools, gone for roads, gone for Haiti. But it survives.
Yes there is tragedy, poverty, and hunger, but not everyone, not everywhere.
The view of most writers about this special place would have us believe helpless Haitians just sit waiting for the next Church or NGO to rescue them. There is some of that, and in the cities, exposure to the corruption of American ways make them anxious, dangerous places.
In the country, many farmers are farming as their ancestors did in Africa, mixing plants that will enrich the soil. And they play drums and sing as their forefathers did. The religion of Vodou, demonized and despised and maligned by whites to steal the confidence of Africans, the attempt to make them think they never knew God until they were conquered and enslaved. But witness the order, the passion, the music, the devotion, the liberation of a sevis and you can’t but recognize whether one believed in it or not, it is a legitimate world religion, inferior to none.
In the North of the country, in Milot, there is a monument to the genius and
determination of the Haitian people, the liberated Africans that destroyed the slave state of the whites: the Citadelle la Ferriere. I recommend anyone who cherishes the liberation of all conquered and colonized people to visit it and be amazed at the grandest, the largest fortress build by Africans, for Africans in the Americas. This proud structure held Napoleon at bay.
So I decided to retire to Haiti. Knowing its history, enjoying the country on many trips, I sold my house in Los Angeles and built another right on the banks of the Artibonite River. Building a home was an awful headache as contractors and builders make of it everywhere. Everything took more time and much more money than expected.
But now I am in my home. I watch white birds (poul dlo) skim the river like Ibis on the Nile. At night there are millions of stars, with Milky Way bisecting. Fireflies add to their points of light. Each morning I take walks, and pass women bearing loads on their heads, bags of pumpkin, 5 gallon buckets, baskets with chickens or turkeys inside, stalks of sugar cane, their mules and horses loaded with them. Actually, cows have the best deal there is here. Horses, mules, donkeys and people work very hard. Chickens, goats and pigs are eaten. But cows just eat, make milk, and babies. They are big and luxuriant.
Some nights I hear drums and lambi (conch shells) call the spirits all night long. I eat fresh vegetables grown nearby; drink juice from the fruit of local trees. It’s like living in a landscape sung by Harry Belafonte 50 years ago.
I give thanks to Jah, the Lwa, my friends, Michael Zinzun, Oji and the Rastas, Bob Marley, John Coltrane, and Dorothy Herrera Settlage.