Independence Day, 1985

14th Rainbow Family Gathering of the Tribes
July 1-7, 1985, Mark Twain Forest, Missouri


— Where were you when the jets went over?
(two Phantoms, 11:30 on the morning
of the Fourth—)

— I was lifting a pick from the hard clay
of Missouri, taking my turn
at the slit trench of a shitter.
They came in across the treetops
dragging their racket like a steel rake
among our upturned faces.

I thought of the children.
Then remembered all the kids
who know that sound and would already
be running.

I drove the pick down hard,
loosening earth for the brother standing ready
with the shovel. My steel striking deep
into roots, ringing stones—

The gashed air
seemed to echo a long time between us.
— Muscle and bone. Muscle and bone.

When I stepped back sweating
from the gouged earth
and he stepped forward, smiling,
I gripped my fear as if I gripped a weapon
and smiled back at him. The echo still
shrieking too loud in me
to speak—

— People will hurry here, grateful.
They will bend a moment and leave
gifts for the forest.
Someone will come and cover the hole we dug
with this same shovel. Roots
will grow again where we cut them,
ground cover will grow.
And children will not always run
from Phantoms.

We promised one another everything
in a look.
Then he started shoveling. My sweat
cooling in the shadow of the trees.