Babylon Come Home!

31st annual Rainbow Family Gathering
July 1-7, 2002, Ottawa Forest, Michigan

As above, so below

Laughter through the trees
along the trail, wind
playing high in the branches
while children play among the ferns—
The woods are alive
with people at work
like a convention of beavers,
building a village of sticks
and tarps and string
that will stand forever
in the memories of these kids

The forest is my church

Following a call for circle,
I found a kitchen in a clearing
and a couple hundred
strangers holding hands.
There’s always room for one more.
In the center of the circle
giant pots of food sat steaming
while a sister prayed,
a brother complained, and we all
sang. Then we sat down
on the grass and the servers
started their procession
around, following the holy jug
of handwash.

How did we ever get so
Which lifetime did we learn
this trick of dividing
and conquering ourselves?
Who sold us the latest
technology of separation,
these deadbolts and fences,
tinted windows and alarms,
and how long must we
keep paying?

A circle of drummers
serenading the brown glitter
of current downstream
around a double horseshoe bend—
The water is alive
with people at play
like a tribe of hippopotami,
while just upstream
of the bridge, three solar panels
pump riverwater through the filters
into an endless queue
of cups and waterbottles

Water is my sacrament

On one side
the riverbank was crowded
with citizens exercising
their sacred right to assemble.
On the other side of the bridge
lawmen played cavalry,
defending the holy relics
of an archeological site
where loggers dumped their trash
while they milled the local sacred groves
into money— (though
the real ruins were bulldozed
by the Forest Service years ago,
local oldtimers say)

Babylon is only a state of mind

profane plastic,
sacred tobacco:
with a twist,
the filter and
split the paper,
grateful prayers
whatever path you

We all have a role to play
in the melodrama of history, however
minute. Mine this year is made up
of a couple dozen small services:
refilling handwash at the Kid Village latrine,
digging through Lost and Found
to recover a sister’s green-rimmed glasses,
a brother’s pocketknife
on its loop of hand-braided hemp,
policing the trails from the blacktop
down to the river—

Babylon, come home!

I met a fellow from back home
assisting with a birth
at his first Gathering, he said,
taking a break to hurry back
and zip his tent before the rain—
and later I heard
how Stella Rainbow was born
just before we all looked up
and saw the rainbow

A naked woman is a pure
vision of the Divine.
Don’t confuse it with desire!
Learn to look without lust,
meet her eyes without shame
and you may be ready
for a grown-up woman of your own.
Maybe even this one
passing on the trail right now,
glancing shyly back— (but
even a woman fully clothed
is a Goddess incognito, brother,

The Gathering is bigger than the Family

Two eagles circling
above our circle in the Silence
on the Fourth, as people
continue endlessly to arrive—
advancing weaponless
down the hill, almost wordless
across the forbidden bridge
and up the grassy slope
to take the hilltop in the Name

                     —While I still
lingered at Info, one hand flat
against a brother’s back, listening
through the Silence
as he spilled out his anger and heartbreak.
His irreplaceable blue backpack: stolen
or spaced on a supply run?
It didn’t matter. His faith
was shaken and his shoulders rocked
with the sobs of a man
working hard for nothing but love,
cheated out of his wages in the end

If here, then everywhere: Babylon come home

I hope he at least looked up
to see the sundog that circled the sun
in the clear blue sky
after the Silence broke into celebration—
I hope he looked down
a night or two later to see the candlelit
mud altar beside the main trail
covered with intricate mud sculptures,
a miniature pueblo along the mud bank
where tiny mud people
waved from ladders and hammocks
at the passing multitude . . .

As above, so below.
manipulating the manipulators
in the council,
leading us Home again and again.
entangling the bureaucrats,
hierarchy foiled by hierarchy,
officers of the peace
restrained from disrupting an illegal
prayer for Peace.
The river of Love flowing on to the sea
without ceasing,
carrying off the sediment of sorrow,
the salt of sweat,
the droplets of heaven that fall
when the clouds
can no longer contain their love
for the Earth—

The family is bigger than the Gathering.
Babylon, come home!

Stephen Wing

Poet, activist and author Stephen Wing lives in Atlanta with his wife Dawn Aura and assorted pets. Read more about him here.

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