Rainbow Mantras

13th Rainbow Family Gathering of the Tribes
July 1-7, 1984, Modoc Forest, California


"The spirit host is advancing, they say.
They are coming with the buffalo, they say.
They are coming with the new earth, they say,"
sang the Ghost Dancers

Sometimes the world grows
barren as a road:

Authorized Dealer

narrow as the highway
between two cities—

Help Wanted

but I've arrived
and the sky-blue schoolbus
that passed me once (Wyoming)
and once again (Nevada)
balloons like a sounding whale
above a field of cars

"The blue bus
is calling us . . .
Driver, where you taking us?"
sang a California

(California plate in parking lot: UZR WNGS)

A crowd of people
all in natural step
Two riders
following on a white
and a brown horse
Three or four vehicles
idling behind, and the dust
coming to life
last of all—

Bless us, I think we are beginning
to arrive.

"Oh, city of gypsies,
who could see you and forget?"
Lorca sang

We are
the pale ghosts of Indians
browning in the sun
here on this ridge the Pit River people
hold sacred.

We come
every year to a place
this close beneath the sun
to brown our skins and grip more firmly
the earth in our roots:
natives of this clear sky,
natives of the rain tomorrow,
a nation under the Rainbow.

We feel
darker ghosts around us, watching:
for ten thousand years
people have camped here with their children,
their tents and cooking pots,
gazing up at the same slow constellations,
drumming and dancing
to an identical fullness of the moon.
Only the places they came from
differed much from us,
and how they came.

"Rainbows their raiment, aye,
the winds for their steeds!"
sang Li Po

I slept at dawn
and woke late
and somehow knew
it was not too late

I put on the clothes
of my sacred obsessions,
the shaman's feathers,
the clown's bright underwear—
one red and one blue sock,
my grandfather's pajama bottoms
and beads from Mardi Gras—

Shouldered my drum
and tucked my owl's tail
from the highway shoulder
into my headband
(that felt funny
so I took it down and
carried it in my hand)

At the top of the ridge
I came into the company
of the silence: sat listening
until my prayer came

I laid down my drum
and took off all my
precious things,
left my special clothes
in a heap of colors
and wandered
naked on the mountain

"Cover my earth mother
four times with many flowers,"
sang the Zuni

High in an ocean of small flowers
the circle formed:
so far across you only saw the colors.
From hand to hand
we passed each second of the silence.

To the north
and east and south seven mountains
held our breath
and the snows of summer glinted.
To the west
at the treeline the conifers listened.

In the forest
our metropolis of tents was quiet:
from the ridge,
from the sun in our faces and the scent
of the sage,
our chant spilled to flood the valleys.

A high chant
even the children understood. Peace.
And then the silent
syllable that flowed from us reached
our altitude:
a long vowel from our fingertips touched
and overflowed.

"The wind blows where it wills, and you
hear the sound of it, but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with every one who is born
of the Spirit,"
sang the Avatar of this
passing age

(After long wandering
among the multitude of the naked
I began to watch for my
heap of colors, ready now
not to find it. Finally of course
I found it: looked up
one more time and saw
seven mountains all
looking back at me precisely
at eye level)

"We shall cover ourselves with the gold of owning nothing,"
Vallejo sang


It's arrived!

People moving
far off on a hill
like dancers
trailing scarves of dust

For a hundred miles around
cows look up from their chewing
and crowd to the highway fence,
dogs forget the length of their chains
and howl in arcane harmonies
from farm to farm—

Occasions like this
leave a trail behind them:
the smoke of a stick
of incense, the whirling trace
of a juggler's firesticks

"We're dancing on the edge of the world,"
the California natives sang

Harold the one-legged duck
lost his leg at the '83 Gathering,
tough karma, those Rainbow kids
popped him loose of his rubber band
sometime in the night, now
there's a hole where he once trailed
an orange plastic leg on wings spread
to the horizons, and poor Harold
doesn't hold air any more—

"Do not confine your children to your
own learning, for they were born
in another time,"
a Hebrew proverb sings

Here on the mountain
the air is freedom
the earth is respect
and nakedness is sacred

Down in the valleys
we will breathe the cinder
of highways, of cities
we will walk in shoes
over asphalt and cement

But always we carry
our sacred nakedness
in open palms, in faces
that reflect the sun
going down over Shasta
from this high ridge
in the memory

"Naked you came from Earth the Mother.
Naked you return to her.
May a good wind be your road,"
sang the Omaha

Sometimes the world gets
barren as a road:

(They may attempt
to communicate with you)

narrow as a highway
between cities—

Hair Creations
(San Francisco)

but I have seen a mountain blossom
into a city of tents
and I have seen a highway ramp
refract a caravan of colors
out of a line of climbing cars

"From the doorway of rainbow,
the path out of which is the rainbow,
the rainbow passed out with me,"
sang the Navajo

We return to the four compass-points,
to our gardens and farms
in the cities and hills of this country
and others, the old places
across oceans where our migrations began:
Jerusalem, Tokyo, London and Berlin—

"Let the names of imperial cities
caress the ears with brief meaning,"
Mandelstam sang

Hairs grow
on the body.
The open meadows
fill with young trees.
Slow forests
govern the earth.

"Through the middle of broad fields,
the rainbow returned with me.
To the center of my house,
the rainbow returned with me,"
sang the Navajo

Bless us, I think we are beginning
to arrive.