Drums at the Confluence of Visions

16th Rainbow Family Gathering of the Tribes
July 1-7, 1987, Nantahala Forest, N.C.


"This I burn as an offering.
Behold it!
A sacred praise I am making.
A sacred praise I am making.
My nation, behold it in kindness!"

—Heyoka song, Dakota Sioux


Joined at birth
like these small rivers
that have slowly
shaped the loins of the Mother,
ceaselessly giving
birth to the bigger stream,
we choose our
yearly confluence and come
to live at least
one week under our true names,
in our light tents
and transparent shelters,
giving ceaselessly
birth to the bigger stream


Empowering the Council Feather

Great Spirit,
      Divine Mother,
we know this feather
came to us from you,
we know its first purpose
in the Creation is to fly—
      empower it
so that each of us
who takes it in turn
may look down as the great eagle
circling over our Council,
      empower us
so that each may speak
as the wind speaks
from every corner of the Creation,
looking down over the long shoulder
      of the horizon


Two insects I'd never
seen before
mating on my tent flap
as I knelt
to the zipper, moving in

my granddaddy's old
suitcase bulging with unborn
works of art
(watercolors and pastels and
oils I embezzled
from Art class at Central High
a dozen years ago)

my portfolio full of patient
virgin paper


Like a little gearbox
under some cosmic clutch,
the kitchen crew relaxes
to smoke and talk

Which is it
that engages these gears,
the work, or all this
talk of life?


The Jehovah's Witnesses have
           joined us
—two brothers in shirtsleeves
           with briefcases,
ties hanging parallel
           even as one (the elder)
leans to the hand of a shaven
           Krishna devotee—

The Jehovah's Witnesses have
           joined us,
now we are


What rivulet
of soft feet
padded this ground
bare, down
the steep hill under
low boughs?
the tent kitchen clearing
where I rescue
a cigarette package from the trash
and turn it inside
out, calling to the assembled—
"Help! Emergency!
Anyone have a pencil or pen?")


Small wings
between my shoulder
and the netting of my
                stir a flutter
in the long throat of the dusk-light,
suddenly I am listening to the leafy thoughts
of the forest

                       the Mother is walking
on the land tonight, invisible
except for the toe-marks
the fieldmice leave, tiny tooth-glyphs
in the dry corn, making it


If you don't want to see it,
make it go away.

(No, closing your eyes
doesn't work.
I still see it.)

Remember to be
joyful as you bend, somewhere
this is sacrament

Look back
and see your trampled Mother
virgin once more

Remember to be humble
as you walk on
with your pocketful of pleasure

Look! Another one!
This one still

(Any time I get homesick
for this village of love and mud,
I just start
picking up the cigarette butts)


one walking away—
I think I understand you,
even the first look
belongs to me forever, a step
impossible to draw back—
see, I release you
from our marriage of glances
and you walk

The war of love requires courage, yes,
how many of our brave warriors
have returned bearing children on their backs?


"Send prayers to Asheville!"

Under the gavel
of the federal judge
a peaceful camp looks up, uneasy
at the sound of a light plane—

Almost time for our evening shower.

(Tell the drummers to pound that
pulse of thunder deep into the ground,
wake the stump the mill and wood-lathe left
when they cut and turned and polished
his lacquered hammer!)

Rain falls on the judge as on the judged.

"Send prayers to Asheville today,
brothers and sisters—"


It's the angle
of the hand to the skin,
the stretch
of the skin to the hole carved
in the wood
or fired in the clay,
the angle of the hole to earth
and mostly
it's the shape of the air
in the hole
that makes the
music of the drum


Sun, evening shadows, mist
that drifts to rain:
the food is ready and we join hands.
It's only the clear day's light
refracted through the wet nights
that makes this Rainbow on the ground.

Our circle makes a hole in the ground—
spirit rising like water in a well,
falling like the light on a pond,
the round earth and the rolling sky joined
in a circular kiss . . .
The Circle makes us Whole.


Vision Council carries on
all over camp— "Yeah, they're still
over a trading blanket,
over buckets filling at the spring,
over a rough sawhorse where two brothers
draw the long saw between them—

No accident. We founded our village
a year and a day ago precisely
here (though it was
only a month ago we found this place)

at the confluence of vision

We are a village of visionaries
and the Council carries on
"—yeah, thirtysix hours now, and nobody
seems to have a watch—"


saxophone in the morning

Praise to the spirits of the four directions
who join us here from such
great distances!

the sweet smell of sage
drifting after someone on the trail

Praise to the Mother of mornings,
you, pregnant dancer!

potatoes frying
in the smoke of the cookfires, murmur
of a village hidden in the leaves

Praise God for hunger and good food!

ritual of one more day
between the haste of water
and the reverie of the pines, each dawn
since we lost track of the sabbath
a fresh revelation