S. R. Lavin aka Sholom

Photo Gallery & Memoir

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A DEFENCE AGAINST WAR: "A Time for Learning"
And Experiment in Community: 1972-80
A Biographic Memoir by S. R. Lavin

I came upon a child of God, he was walking along the road, and I asked him "Where are you going?" and this he told me..."I'm goin' on down to Yasger's Farm, I'm gonna join in a rock n roll band, I'm gonna camp out on the land...I'm gonna set my soul free."
"Well, maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's the time of Man, I don't know who I am, but you know, life's for learning." — Joni Mitchell, from her song "Woodstock"

The printing and publication of THE STONECUTTERS AT WAR WITH THE CLIFFDWELLERS (Heron Press, 1971) instigated a somewhat impressed librarian at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. to arrange for the author of those poems to be appointed "poet-in-residence" for the January Term, 1972. Clark University had become a flamboyant, avant-garde "hippie" school (and scene) with a profoundly intelligent and talented student body. Yes, there was a lot of marijuana and LSD around and in use, but the hey-day of those drugs was climaxing, and Massachusetts had become de facto decriminalized. Or, at the very least, no one was making a big issue out of the drug use (quite openly evident at that time). In the post-era of Woodstock, it was a time of experimentation, redefining of goals, realignments of social norms, changing political landscapes, and a time for learning.

The poet packed up his little black Volvo sedan (complete with tea pot and a tin of Darjeeling and drove from Williamsburg, Massachusetts to Worcester along scenic Rt. 9 (heading east). The countryside between Belchertown and the Brookfields was especially beautiful, and having been enamored with Hardwick (Mass.) and Barre, I began to search in that area for a remote and exotic setting in which to settle. I stumbled upon an old farmhouse, nearly in ruin, on a remote dirt road in West Hardwick, almost abutting the Quabbin Reservoir. It had been a 50 acre farm of meadows and forests, with two hard-water wells, an old barn (collapsing), and a harness shed (also dilapidated).

For some time I had been considering the notion of being part of a "community" of artists, whose aim was to work and produce art — an "artist's colony" with serious professional poets and writers having cabins spread throughout the property, with the main house available for common use. The years I had spent working with Chandler at Heron Press in Williamsburg had also been a time to cultivate many sincere friendships with other artists...Gregory Gillespie, Hui-Ming Wang, and Mark Weiss among many others.

That "vision" never quite came to fruition...but, in its place evolved a real-life community that existed from 1972-1974 in its initial "phase," then in a more eclectic version from 1975-78, and finally, voted by its members to be dissolved (1980). Here's what happened in those formative years (the brief version).

******
Four Zoas 1972. October. I moved into the farmhouse, which looked east to Dougal Mountain, after putting every dollar I had into the down payment (with no money left to meet even the first mortgage payment). I withdrew my retirement funds from three years of teaching in the public schools of Massachusetts which gave me a few months to scramble and devise a plan to get a "community" started. At that time, the vision was to operate a small letterpress shop and produce books of poetry (The FOUR ZOAS Press), printed and bound by hand, in limited quantities. Simultaneously, the press would publish The FOUR ZOAS Journal of Poetry & Letters....and be a voice of dissent against WAR, and against the Vietnam War in particular. The first journal was issued in 1974 and evoked the spirit of conciliation to all sides. It declared: AMNESTY.

In the years prior, I had spent quite a bit of time with Bruce Chandler, working with him as his "partner" in the Heron Press (as the poetry editor and distributor-salesperson). Both of us had been given a significant access to the Gahenna Press (Leonard Baskin's shop)...and then, from there, we set up our own shop in "Burgy." Those years were fruitful and productive, and in 1973 we published our anti-war pamphlet CAMBODIAN SPRING, nine poems and a rather shocking front piece (a grinning skull of death) declaring the horrors of war in general...Vietnam in particular.

"Confucian torture-ode welcomes you the chamber of horrors.
The blind are lead to supper, confessing their crimes to the wind."

S. R. Lavin
(from Cambodian Spring, Heron Press, 1973)

Those poems were especially significant because one of my mentors, George Oppen, had enthusiastically endorsed them and Jon Silkin had published some of them in STAND Magazine. Later, I recited the entire booklet of nine poems for an audio version, orchestrated with an new-age electronic musical score (by H. Norris). That was soon published by BLACK BOX, an Audio Poetry Magazine (Washington, D.C., 1975). The entire sequence of twenty-five poems later appeared in my collected poems, LET MYSELF SHINE (Kulchur Press, 1979).

Bruce and I were also good friends with Jim Cooney who owned the Morning Star Farm, where he also had a full letterpress printing shop. We spent many hours with him, working on our letterpress books as well. (Cooney's publication was The Phoenix.) We bought a Kelly B (letterpress) from him which at one time had been owned by Harry Duncan at the Cummington Press. Jimmy also sold me a small platen press that had, at one time, been used by Anaïs Nin. The "small press" coterie of poets and printers was almost a family of long-standing fame among a certain "underground" society of avant-garde dissidents and literary innovators. Henry Miller had also been an early contributor-editor to The Phoenix.

I had also become a good friend and protégé of Jon Silkin (the founding editor of STAND Magazine). I lived in Jon's house in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in England (1970), and there, as an editor apprentice, I learned from Jon how to market inexpensive poetry books to ordinary lay-people as well as to students at colleges. Jon was a working class poet (and a socialist) who believed in an honest wage for honest work...and by that standard he established the policy that working poets deserve a working wage. STAND paid writers for their poems, usually five to twenty-five dollars per poem, and a little more for fiction and essays.

******

Scrambling to make mortgage payments and meet other economic pressures that first few months in West Hardwick, I sold the barn to a neighbor...I sold the wide boards and some of the hand-hewn beams for enough cash to cover two payments on the mortgage. Then, I placed a one time ad in the New York Times Classifieds, offering the farmhouse and 18 acres to any purchaser interested in having a communal residence there. The selling price: $24,000.00 (the amount of the mortgage). That would leave me 32 acres which I would own outright. It was mostly forest with one high meadow (on the other side of the dirt road from the farmhouse) and the scheme was for that land to become the stead for an artist's colony...where cabins could be built and summer-time tenters would be welcome to stay for short periods, make a contribution in labor, do their art...as short-term residents in the scheme of things.

Meanwhile, at Clark University, I had taught a poetry class and had become intimately involved with a musical band of renegade students who emulated "The Grateful Dead." But they also had a very unique creative pulse of their own. They called themselves Cat's Cradle, after Kurt Vonnegut's novel... One of my students, Dan Carr, invited me to write a song with him for the group. Later that year, Dan and I gave our first poetry reading, combined with a "light show." The concert included two sets by the Cat's Cradle band, and so from that gig at Clark University we were already forming a cohesive union of working artists, and it was at that event we introduced our first song..."Calling to the Waters" (published by the Peer Group, 1975)...That eventually became a kind of theme song for us...and we were invited to New York City to record several of our songs through the Peer Corporation.

At that first evening performance at Clark University, we invited people to join "The Horde"...the evening was moderately successful (about a hundred were in the audience) and that lead to many paying gigs over the next few years at colleges, cafés, and in concert halls. That "run" heroically culminated in our appearance at the FIVE SPOT in New York City in 1975.

From the get-go, in 1972, there was an excitement about what we were doing. Karen Fisher brought her pottery wheel to the farm. Michael Gonnick (now Guru Ganeshe) and I wrote "Valhalla Country Club" (also published by the Peer Group) and that also became a rip-roaring thigh-slapping new age mountain-song, foretelling of our glory days). We composed that song sitting on the porch at the West Hardwick farmhouse on a sunny afternoon during Indian summer (1972). ...with a warm breeze in our face and the bees buzzing in our ears.

That year (fall 1972- spring 1973) was a renaissance of creative people passing through the region, and among them, the ones who stayed and then formed the initial community. Not much later we dubbed our land...The FOUR ZOAS FARM (which about 20 miles east of Amherst, Mass.). Poets, musicians, rogues, ex-Vietnam vets, hippies, nature freaks, herbalists, potters, intellectual heretics, pot farmers, book-makers, printers...and even one native American (who showed us how to build a twig and mud lodge) banded and bonded together to begin work on the communal property. Mostly, during that first vibrant summer, we all lived in tents and used the farmhouse for a common place to socially gather. We also planted a rather large community garden.

But when Susan Ritter bought the 18 acres and the farmhouse later that first year, we all moved across the street and started to build our first major project in the high meadow..."The Eating House."

We also converted a swamp into a lovely fresh water swimming hole. And, as that first summer came to a close, we put on our first poetry festival...with some fairly prominent as well as obscure poets reading from their works...and of course, the Cat's Cradle Band performed as well. The number of guests and listeners was actually quite staggering...more people turned up than had at many other events or venues I'd performed at (about 200 people), many more than had come to other readings at fairly distinguished universities, galleries, and poetry scenes.

We had also grown a rather large garden of food that first year. The harvest was impressive. In the autumn, some moved on. Some went back to school with the intent of returning in the spring...planning to pick up where we had left off...the "Eating House" was still under construction...

Among the poets who visited the farm and read at various festivals were Diane Stevenson, Mark Weiss, Morgan Gibson, Ken Smith, Bill Tremblay, Mac Wellman, Gerard Malanga, Julie Sheinman, and Dan Carr.

Notables among the musicians were John Tuttle, a kind of set apart musical genius, and the regulars from Cat's Cradle: Harry Norris, Michael Gonnick, and Bryan Depesa.

In that first year, Tom and Diane Dunigan also pitched in and joined us...they lived about five miles away, in a cabin in West Brookfield...but they spent nearly every day on the land...They brought with them their four year old daughter, Marcy, who wrote and hand-printed her own poem..."Don't waste gas, and don't waste heat. Give a hoot. Don't pollute. Have some fun and use the sun." It was a pretty impressive first effort...and it confirmed something in us that we were embarked on a new kind of learning experience... though we hardly knew what to expect or what the goal was, if any.

Essentially, we were against the war and against "the system." And we had come to understand that being "against" what he loathed wasn't enough...we needed to find out what we were "for." It was enough to be against the "establishment." We needed to establish something ourselves. If only for ourselves, we desired to be credible examples of something. But what? We were in search of ourselves. Our identity as Americans, boomers, artists, and worthwhile human beings was all at once at stake. We knew we either had to "put up or shut up."

Tom was an intuitive man salted with common sense... and he became a true friend. He'd been a football player and a refugee from an upstate New York traditional middle class life. But a near fatal car crash in 1972 left him with only one leg...and he was reeling from the devastation of all that. I was hitch-hiking on Route 9...he picked me up and gave me a ride to the farm...I was pretty scared when I saw he was driving the car without using his one leg (it was still in a caste)...he used a cane to push the accelerator peddle with...we smoked some marijuana together...I explained the vision for the farm...

The very next day he brought his family over. We were good friends ever after. Tom built a log cabin in the woods in the third year of our communal "experiment." Soon after that Tom went back to school and became a registered nurse, then a chiropractor, and then went on to became a teacher. About five years after that initial encounter, he moved away to Pennsylvania and built a home for his family on a sweet little piece of land near the Delaware Water Gap.

Tom was an "earthy man." He loved to get down in the dirt and grow food. He also introduced goats to our conclave...and we all got our start drinking goats' milk. He also made friends with Ben Harris, a rather well-known herbalist who had a radio and TV show which was broadcast from Worcester (about 30 miles away). Ben made frequent trips to the farm to take us out on nature walks and we also went on air with him a few times.

******

The Watergate Trials and the nagging "winding down" of the Vietnam War were like an ever-present reminder to us that, in our time, we were witnesses to the staggering fall of America as we had once known it. We were seeing a President about to be removed from office. And, we were seeing our country embroiled in a never-ending undeclared war, and it was the first war that America might lose.

The FOUR ZOAS FARM was a short-lived phenomenon, which was at its apex of activity in the summer of 1973 through the summer of 1975 (when Nixon resigned). During that time and then over the next five years, the Four Zoas Press published fifty or so poetry "chapbooks," nine Four Zoas Journals, as well as "broadsheets" (individual poems for framing by Jon Silkin, George Oppen and Gerard Malanga). The letterpress was established in the old tack house on the farm and through those times we owned and operated five antique letterpresses.

Beyond the poetry and the pottery and the vegetables and the cabins we built, we engendered an outlaw mentality founded upon our belief that the Vietnam War was immoral and "wrong." Yes, we were pot smokers...but what bound us together was our rogue beliefs that "The System" was already too corrupt to be salvaged, and that we were going "back to the land" to find a different way to live.

Our little group (ten full-timers and forty or so drifters) had "pierced the veil of modernity" to reveal a monstrous corporate villain...an energy glutton society, polluting the water without seeming to care about doing so, spraying pesticides and poisoning the food supply, delivering up "nuclear" medicine and power to the ever growing numbers of cancer victims. We saw a society that was tyrannically racist...suppressing the blacks, the third world brown people, marginalizing the American poor, disrespecting old people, gunning down students protesting the war, and drafting an unwilling population of young men who were forced to squander their lives as "cannon fodder" in order that an unjust government could fight an unjust war.

It was "us" against "them"....and "they" were perfectly depicted in TIME Magazine's cover showing all of Nixon's men tangled up in gobs of audio tape. Marcy, the four year old in our midst, saw that cover and declared, "Look, momma, it's the government!" We all laughed heartily, and we knew the child had seen and spoken what we all knew to be evidently so.

We wanted to get off the grid, so to speak. We wanted to eat organic foods. We studied alternative medicines. We established food co-ops. We baked our own bread. We ate brown rice. We used books like Back to Eden and Foxfire , White Sugar Blues and How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World to point us in a direction back to when life was cleaner and more wholesome, healthier and happier. We focused on our relationships (our friendships) and we were willing to be builders with our own hands, and we weren't afraid to work hard and long by the sweat of our brows.

It was more than just a time for learning and more than just a mere experiment in alternative living. We fully expected "the system" to collapse and leave behind a ruined civilization. So, we saw ourselves as preparing for a real life that would emerge from what we were building. We hardly knew who we were or who we were becoming, but we were clearly at the end of one era and at the beginning of another...we were for peace and we wanted healthy change (in ourselves and in the socio-political fabric of America).

We became farmers, house builders, teachers, nurses, chiropractors, parents and along the way, we challenged ourselves to be better human beings.

By 1972 it was obvious that the government and the "military-industrial complex" was hell-bent on its own course, regardless of public opinion or sane decision-making. And it wasn't just in Vietnam we could see the effects of their errant policy. We saw the same oppressive mentality support tyrannical dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, in Mexico, and we witnessed the storm trooper mentality at work in squelching the riots in America. And we saw the bare teeth of the monster at Kent State too.

In the aftermath of the late 60's, when war protests and new age ideas had produced a "counter culture" — with distinct music, diet changes, clothing, new allegiances based on a belief that Vietnam was wrong --- all the cards were on the table...face up! The lines were drawn. The hardhats on one side, the longhairs on the other. McGovern vs. Nixon. Good vs. Evil. War vs. Peace. Oppression vs. Justice. The assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Malcolm X (and later John Lennon) had left an indelible impression on us all. Watch out...because if you sing too loud or speak the truth and get heard, the goons will get you...

We had the uncomfortable feeling what it must have been like for German citizens during World War II, those who saw Hitler as an evil and immoral man, those who hated what their government was doing, but were powerless to change it... And the war dragged on. Nixon made the boast..."We're not going to blink." (That meant he was proving to the Russians and the Chinese that America had the guts to "stay the course."

Fifty-thousand American men slaughtered. How many Vietnamese? How many maimed or bombed into homelessness?

And the war dragged on.

******

So, we went "back to the land." It was really a spiritual journey as much as physical attempt to purge ourselves of the national guilt. Yes, we had our own militant mind, to oppose evil by speaking out, protesting, being blatant in our disrespect for those in authority. And, in the tradition of Thomas Paine, we published anti-war literature.

We were dissenters, iconoclasts, muckrakers as well as middle class refugees with talent, gumption, education, money (though not so much as we needed) and we believed we had stumbled upon a new set of truths that would take us to a new way of living. We dreamed of solar power and economic justice (redistribution of the wealth) and a clean environment where our children would live in a better (more just) world than the one we saw all around us.

History shows (by revelation and facts) that American intervention in other people's countries for their own good is not morally sustainable. And to that end, the sacrifice of American men and women is neither justified nor acceptable. The blatant destruction of someone else's homeland as a way to save them from what Americans believe to be their horrible lives, is not justifiable. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians is not justifiable. It's not "good" and it's not "just" and it's not necessary!

******

Our efforts on the land and our work as writers and artists was framed by our stance and status as "war resisters." The anti-war movement, at one time, had been the driving motivation for a new configuration of young people (in the U.S. and around the globe) to "drop out" and confront the steamroller of totalitarianism before the whole world was just a giant "parking lot, a pink hotel, a boutique and a swingin' hot spot."

"It's like the whole country was giant prison mess hall on a skimpy budget..."

Mark Weiss

******

Of course, we were naïve. Yes, we were idealists with very little principle or discipline to do much more than what we felt like doing.

Some of us knew we had already "lost." The struggle had consumed us and had exhausted our enthusiasm, and we limped off the battlefield stunned and confused. But, we had shaken the psyche of America, we had captured the attention of main stream media... they feared us and were determined to see us discredited or marginalized. "Business as usual" was all that mattered. The status quo was being defended and preserved at all costs. One day, Jim Cooney, while poaching eggs and making toast, smiled a cunning, coy smile and said to me "Even a dead shark can bite off your leg."

******

But the questions we asked have never been answered. "Is this the best we can do? Are we bound to destroy ourselves? Is there a way out?"

Some of us thought we had the answers. Or at least, we thought we had better answers than to willy-nilly keep polluting the planet, carrying on an unjust and unpopular war, poisoning ourselves with prepackaged foods, only to end up as psychotics hooked on rydillin or lithium or oxycontin or carbamazepine or ECT (electro convulsive therapy).

Maybe there are no answers. No way out of our human foibles and flaws. The age of corporate wealth and productivity has created a monster that is devouring us. In the second half of the 20th century, the monster was unmasked and we all found ourselves in an era of unprecedented "wealth without justice."

Spiritually speaking, there is a monster...a monstrous industry of evil...fueled by greed, selfishness, a massive confusion of "self-interests," capitalistic enterprise, and opposing intellectual ideologies...all working in discordance.

Disease, famine, war, poverty....injustice...on a world-wide scale...

has become "the norm." All our hopes for a clean environment and a just society have been crushed by the real historical thrust of a world-wide consuming economic empire, more in power than ever before...with a broader, more expansive agenda than ever before.

PERDIDO (LOST)

Alone in a place where no one breathes
I sleep like stone carved from memory.

I've lost in myself what belongs to others.

We lose another President.

From failure, collapse.
From collapse, void.

Night brings the truth back to me,
what could be called peace,
to know something of one's self
not previously known.

Each morning the dead are collected
from the pavement. They are not counted.
They have no names.

Wealth without justice
condemns the innocent
with the guilty.

All that should be right is wrong.
All that can be done has not been done.

Among the dead are those we love
and those we never know.
How could we?

"We are corrupt. We are losing our soul."

There is the cold clarity of despair.

The streets are dirty.

Promises have been broken.

S. R. Lavin

(Published in STAND Magazine, England, 1987)

We have all been trained to be good consumers. And we are all being swept away by the tsunami of corporate social, political, and immoral engineering (whether we like it or not). We live in the schizoid shadows of a modern day tyrannosaurus rex (which is devouring everyone and everything in its path).

Simultaneously, every kind of opportunity and technological tool is at our finger tips...and, at the same time, personal potential seemed endless...Scientists are talking about colonizing Mars. An Iranian business woman (from Texas) paid in excess of twenty million dollars to be the first "female tourist" to ride a Suyoz rocket to the space station. These truly are "the best of times and the worst of times."

The headlines are all about war, and weather disasters, and diseases that rob people of their memory and the future, and after 25 years we wake-up in somebody else's nightmare, which is worse than any we have ever dreamed before.

Is the world ever going to change? How many innocent people have been tortured who knew nothing, or were simply swept up in a frenzied search for terrorists. Meanwhile, an endless cycle of loneliness and self-contempt grips the national psyche. How else would we ever get to using electric shock torture, to attach wires to people's genitals? Or smear their faces in menstrual blood? How do we "make good" out of this messed up existential nightmare?

Either "the new world order" is all wrong or we were just punks looking to be trouble makers....even in the 1980's, I still wanted to believe in a solution and held onto the fig leaf of an idea that a sane and "happy" life was possible for our nation and humanity. During those years I raised my children, taught school and lived out on the land.

But, in more recent times, I no longer held out a hope that human beings could break the cycle: trying to change from the inside or trying to change the outside...with disastrous results no matter how hard we try or how creative our solutions (back to the land or lost in the comforts of consumerism)...it seems to end up in a hopeless state of being disillusioned and bitterly defeated.

Nor can we deny that shopping malls and condos and political strife and economic injustice are swirling all around us as part of an impersonal, shallow world that brings little or no satisfaction to our souls and does not fill the void that brings us to despair and desperation.

In the 1960's we wanted to be a good people, connected to other good people, sharing in a meaningful (and vibrant) life, but the years have sped along and that kind of happiness seems more of an illusive dream than ever.

I did not imagine that the problem was eternally "out there." The fact is, human beings are born into a selfish and manic society which dictates and promotes selfishness as a kind of ultimate good (as expressed in capitalism, laissez faire economics and nationalistic political philosophies)...And, we all learn how to look out for number one.

******

The Vietnam War made it very clear — war is good business, in every way one might choose to consider. Profiteering from war is an old story...from manufacturing uniforms and prosthetic limbs during the Civil War, to the building of weapons of mass destruction (as the U.S. and Soviet Union wasted billions in resources in a senseless arms race that lasted for more than for half a century).

Chemical defoliation and uranium coated bullets and genetically modified foods and global warming are just more disastrous consequences created by non-human, callous and greedy, corporate entities...who wangle their products into mainstream market places (globally) with political clout and maniacal power. Is it surprising to anyone that heroine is readily available in every American city? It's inexpensive and presently "the drug of choice." And for all the hoopla to the contrary, tobacco cigarette sales remain very constant.

There is a vast industry in motion and the rich are getting richer, corporations more powerful, people more sated by everyday pleasures.

And then there are those people whose country has been invaded. Maybe it's for gold, or tin, or rubber, or diamonds, or OIL or even a strategic military base in a desired "region" of the world.

******

In the final days and weeks of the Vietnam War (1975) it all ended with a deafening whimper and a sigh of relief...but when the dust cleared we had put into office the first unelected President and unelected Vice-President in U.S. history. And hardly anyone took notice of it or seemed to put any special significance on the fact.

Nixon flew home to San Clemente and was pardoned. The U.S. conceded Vietnam to its rightful owners...the Catholics and Buddhists who were born and raised there (otherwise identified as "communists." ).

The Vietnam War was the war that raised the most questions (in modern times) about the need for war, any war. We, as Americans, were left to wonder why so many had to die...for what cause had so many valiantly perished? All that suffering, and torture, and death, and "pacification" and political face-saving...the wasted energies of a generation and the potential for a dynamic American spirit to bring about positive change....four Presidents, and fifty thousand American fatalities later...The land and the spiritual hopes of our lifetime were dashed and brutally left behind and given up for dead in the last century.

And this was the most glaring, bitter truth...that war was the inevitable condition in mankind's spirit...at war with Nature, at war with humanity, at war within our own destructive selves (how else could people bring themselves to do what they did to prisoners at Abu Grav Prison (in Iraq) and in those secret C.I.A. torture chambers around the globe (including in such shameful places as Poland and Siberia).

Thirty years later, we who lived those brief years seeking a better way, look back with a special fondness to who we chose to become in those times. We were impulsive and proud, determined and driven...but our basic intuition and assessment of society and "the system" (sadly) seems to have been proven to be true.

The question that stands is a compelling one: Is humanity the perpetual victim of an endless cycle of good versus evil? Are wealth and poverty forever separated by injustice and callous disregard for the desperate needs of others? Is mayhem and death always stalking the dreamers who long for peace and life?

Those of us who came into the world as young, idealistic adults some thirty years ago....who saw what was what and sought to change it...are we now to be plowed under with the old stubble of a by-gone era, or is there any fight left in us to decry what we now see is the poison fruit from that poison tree we declared we would not eat from those many years ago...

We face bigger problems than ever. The injustice and the destructive nature of industrial progress seems to have brought us right to the edge of global extinction. And yet, in my heart, is the distant call to arms...like a prayer that I can never quite articulate...which once we spoke as if in a dream...Could it be, even now, a faint utterance remains to be heard...

******
ABENAKI SUNRISE

The view from these ledges southward,
hills rolling in rounded green pastures,
heaven intoned by grazing herds,
Jersey and Guernsey together.

America, here and far beyond,
where Nature, efficient and beautiful, shows
the meaning of peace, the vista
of human connectedness
conjured in panorama,
bedazzles and soothes.

The river, from the crevices
of the Appalachian Trail,
rushes through and turns west
below me, stirs in me
an ancient song.

The markers in the graveyard
are the evidence of past lives,
part of a continuous landscape,

mountain from mountain

being born

S. R. Lavin

(Published in the Chinese International Poetry Magazine, 2000)