In the Summer of the Dragon

17th Rainbow Family Gathering of the Tribes
July 1-7, 1988, Angelina Forest, Texas

 


I.

The old bus was resting
on its perpetual right-of-way,
the highway shoulder,
while we slept: steel-hulled seed
of dreams, our day-glo
signs and slogans of Peace
invisible and shining in
the dark

Sometimes you can just feel
the whole journey tip
into the mythic

(This old bus is older than I am,
veteran of the Great March
for Global Disarmament, code name
"Middleschool": its arch of ceiling
scrawled forever with echoing
voices of kids—)

Sweeping out the bus
afterward, admiring its hardwood,
I turn the journey like a pebble
in the pocket and consider
how the currents have their way
even with the stone

(We must have crossed the vanished,
shining track of those legendary walkers
somewhere on that journey down
the Mississippi, endless
valley of that night)

"Going to the Rainbow,
Going to the Rainbow,
Someday we're all gonna
get back Home"

.

II.

"Woman,"
the dying messenger cried out,
"behold your son—"

We all came out of different high schools,
facing our cafeteria trays again,
jogging in a dream in the middle of the gym class,
searching the faces in the hall
for the one that looks, watching for something
in the look that shines
and vanishes—

This can't be real, this can't be
how you conjugate the verb
"to live"— a Hollywood fistfight
in the parking lot, padded gangs
brawling under floodlights every
Saturday night, polished cruisers out
racing the stoplights—

One by one we came
to the woods.
By random wandering
in the thousand lost directions we found
the real country we'd pledged our hearts to
all those years
while we covered our hearts with our hands

(Country so quiet
it needs no name, country only its
yearning exiles have learned to call
"Peace")

Step by misstep, leap
by suicidal leap
into the black cavern inside
we groped to a true divinity, the temple
they cut down to build the churches,
the light we meditated on
Sunday after Sunday through the colored glass—

(Temple so ancient
it blooms again each spring and makes fruit,
sanctuary only the wounded even need to call
"Healing")

What could be more ridiculous
than a prophet in the wilderness?
By U.S. Forest Service count,
four thousand four hundred of us . . .

 


III.

Ah,
Texas was a strange one

—the flotilla of pleasurecraft bobbing
perpetually just offshore,
sunbathers watching the mud-bathers,
waterskiers watching the kite-flyers,
the almost-naked watching the ones
who wore no clothes

though the difference between us was even
less than that
(I heard of one or two that figured it out
and splashed ashore)

—the brother in the mint
white '67 Thunderbird who didn't know
the woods were sacred that week
till a choir of strangers sat chanting
in front of his bumper, one last
outnumbered and surrounded Texan

but the difference between us was even
less than that
(I saw him later with some tattooed biker brothers
grinning into the fire)

—"Six up!" echoing along the road again,
guns in church: pistols hooded
in their holsters, shotguns riding
silent in the green jeeps dusting us again
with powdered clay, pale faces peering
from the tight necks of their uniforms,
young men once upon a time
in love with this wilderness

but the difference between us was even
less than that
(we too brought our vehicles and parked them
casually between the pines)

Yes, Texas was a strange one

 


IV.

But
sometimes you can feel
the whole journey just trip
into the mythic

she was waving to slow them down, I guess
fearlessly she stood in their way

I was at Info Center, heard
the whole thing over CB:

"Stop it, stop the brown jeep!"

They never even made it to the Front Gate

and the District Special Agent
caught them himself, the instantaneous legend ran—

Emblem of our Gathering
for Peace and Healing
in the summer of the Dragon
—our sister No Guns
run down in Main Circle
by a panicky kid

"Air evacuation!" someone kept shouting
"No breathing, no pulse, no nothing,
get a helicopter in here!"

But they brought an ambulance
instead, a runner passing the cry
to clear the road

eight broken ribs,
a punctured lung . . .

She left us a message,
lying in the mud of Texas: she left us a mantra.

"No blame. No revenge."

And the next day at noon
when we lifted our silence
and our joined hands to the humid sky,
the Peace and Healing came down at last,
shining and disappearing into the dry
Mud Flats, the nervous creases of uniforms,
the cynical shoes of the tourists, into
the sweat of shitter-diggers and the steam
of the cooking-pots, seeking its level
among us

The mayor of Zavalla came in person to thank us
for bringing the rain (and all those
one dollar bills)

But we knew who to thank

(Of course we knew all the time, too
why it had to rain

the tourists and the press didn't find out
till three days later the sky began to clear
and the invincible rainbow
linked the island to the shore, shining
and vanishing again

But by then the press and the tourists
had begun to clear as well)



V.

The brokenhearted young man
and the grieving woman must have looked
a long time into one another's faces
before they understood his last
broken parable:  "Behold
your mother—"

We gather in the fold of the unchurched
We, tired of preaching
We gather up the unloved
as disciples gathered crumbs after the feast
so that none go wasted
We, natives of one Mother, natives
of one another

We gather on the ground of our common birth
(we eat, we love,
we disagree, we defecate)
and put up the flowering tents of our belief:
colors as many as the gazes
that turn toward a single sunset, each
an outpost of the daylight
shining on a while
into the dark

Sweeping out the bus afterward,
following the curve of the baby grand,
gathering little piles of the dust of Texas
I am recalling how the ocean's
dumb weight presses grains of sediment
into stone

We gather
under the vast flag of stars
to chant the pulse and breathing of one body
dancing on a hundred thousand feet
We feed our fire with sticks
of incarnated light,
grasp hands in one more circle around the sun

(But Texas, Texas
was a strange one)

The last campfire will outlive
the final lightbulb,
the living skin of the drum
will outlast the radio tower

We have always been sitting here
content with the night
and our suppers, staring through
the last silent coals into something
invisible and vanishing

The east is glowing. We have work to do.