Children of the Canyon

18th annual Rainbow Family Gathering of the Tribes
July 1-7, 1989, Humboldt Forest, Nevada


Looking down from
the rocks on the canyon rim
into the cleft of her womb,
I follow the trail that winds down
through the Gathering.

I see the fire at Kiddy Village.
I see blue tarps by the river.
I watch the children of the canyon
climbing and descending
the windy face of the Mother.

Across the canyon her high rocky bosom
holds the snow up to the sun.
They are drinking it down below.
A horizon of mountains receding
to the ancestors, sky-color.

For miles behind me the plateau breathes
a single scent: the sage.
This place is holy. (Every place is holy
now that we have noticed.)

Clouds have come over at last
to soothe the hot dust
of the long walk from the parking lot,
but the desert sun still glows
in these many-colored companions, rock
and lichen.


One by one
the brothers and sisters climb the hill

(Our faces glowing every color
the sun has yet invented.)

In silence
on a hot dirt track,
the barefoot pilgrims cross the lower meadow

(Our bare feet all identical
the color of this high desert dust.)

In the upper meadow,
an ancient lake bed, they gather
in concentric circles around no particular center

(It’s the way a politician talks
to a prophet: a light plane whining
insect-size across the vastness of our silence.)

Among the gathered
a silence gathers greater than their own;
a patience, sun-fired, waiting to be broken

(It’s the way the prophet replies
to the politician: as if listening
for water in a wilderness of rock and light.)

The silence breaks at noon.
They sing its song, the nameless syllable
that seems to echo from the source of all water
to the rim of the world—

(Beyond, a dustcloud and a shifting of gears:
someone has just left us. Someone has arrived.
The world nags its litany of wars and rumors.)

The children
of the canyon sing the river on
down the mountain into deeper rivers, drum all
rivers Home to the sea—

(Invisible along the rim the telephoto lenses
gather all this light into a box of darkness.
No, our silence does not dissipate unheard.)

The snow melts
on the mountain. Sandstone trickles away to be
reborn. The children stream out
from the center of the meadow to encircle it,
one hand reaching for the next until
an instant of completion passes
like a pulse around the circle, unnoticed and


All night Sarah sings
to her unborn son.
With every breath of the candlelight and cedar
under Joe’s blue tarp
she keeps calling to their baby boy
the wordless syllable of his first

In the early light
above the rush of the river over stones,
at last he answers:
thick black hair like his papa,
baby-flesh the color of this canyon
but waterborne
like these smooth river-stones,
not that rough weathering of sand in wind

Little caterpillar of a bud
on a twig
suckling her wild breast, springwater
in the canyon

The neighbors come bringing presents,
plates of food, soft strumming,
anything to partake
of this moment’s preciousness
(all moments are precious now that we
discover them)

The brothers and sisters
oblivious above,
the cops, the thieves,
trash-haulers, hitchhikers, all of us

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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