The Bridge that Merges with the Stream

22nd annual Rainbow Family Gathering
July 1-7, 1993, Talladega Forest, Alabama

 

1.

In the distance the drums
are still speaking
their hollow hearts to the ground.
In the stillness
close by, birds are starting to sing.

At dawn of the last day,
heading home to bed, I finally meet my ride
out. We arrange a rendezvous.

Walking upstream
along the bank of the creek
as the water walks over its stepping-stones
downstream, I come
to the bridge:
three logs, lashed and anchored,
a handrail of ropes.
Once more my path has crossed the journey
of the water.

2.

Lugging two buckets of springwater
from the hose
up the hill for the ceremony
of the washing of cans,
up the long curve of Alabama clay
smoothed by the naked feet
of love, up to Supply
where the fingers of evolution are
sorting the trash, I come
to the road.
In Law and Order We Trust!
Official green trucks roll by on their mission
of reconnaissance.
Once more my path is about to cross
the tiretracks of war.

How do you stop a gathering of free people?
Not with guns. The pistols ride
blindfolded in their holsters.
It's done with camcorders collecting license plates.
It's done with directional mikes.
It's done with roadblocks
and the language of regulations.

These men and women in uniform have sworn
to uphold the Constitution
all day in the hot sun.
But a filedrawer in Washington holds the mortgage papers
on each one's conscience, the salary and benefits,
the photographs of dependents.
The badges gleaming on their uniforms are only
to armor the heart.

Twice a day, though, standing naked
in front of the mirror in the locker room
or the privacy of home, they are
brothers and sisters of the belly-button,
like us, every mole and wart-hair
precious to the Creator . . .

3.

Lying down to sleep at last among feathery ferns,
under wild grapevines, at home
under my plastic tarp
in an overgrown clearcut beside the creek,
I come
             to the end of the path:
once more I am crossing
where there is no bridge, beginning to drift
downstream

We are riding together
the long current of living
to the living sea, despite our many
deaths along the way:
a river of sweat and footsteps, crates of food
disappearing down the trail,
compost and feces covered with earth
and left behind, as one by one
so are we—

Why the checkpoint
at the end of the road
home, where we leave our vehicles to walk in?
Because there we start across
the imaginary bridge our ancestral dreamers built
to the dreaming unborn, ephemeral arch
of all colors, bridge that merges
with the stream: with every step the earth
grows more solid, licenses and insurance
pale and fade . . . Moonrise
reveals the peacefulness of strangers
passing on the trails, tall briars
reclaiming the meadow . . .

Why do the patriarchs of our
two-legged tribe try to dam that flow?
Why don't they listen to the mothers
with the milk of it still
wet on their nipples?
Why don't we let the newest naked baby
lead the way?

For a few minutes
as the light grows steadily
between the leaves, I slip under
the current of darkness.
Then I get up
and start to pack again for the struggle
upstream.