1972, The Farm*

George, who’d sat zazen in a West Coast ashram,
          who hadn’t started with weed and acid the way we had,
whose ice-floe eyes and thick russet ponytail
          soon sparked jealousies among the single ladies
where before there had been none, the men smirking,
          though we, too, were developing sort of a crush on him,
positioning ourselves behind him at Sunday services,
          copying his chin tuck, back arch, deep exhalations —
we wanted to at least look like we were meditating.
          We also had eyes for his car. You had to give up
all possessions to live here, George fine with that —
          he’d just spent two cross-country months in the thing,
its front bucket seat removed for sleeping purposes —
          and now an actual Lark was our newest town-runner.
Most of our vehicles were pretty much jokes
          prone to flats, overheating, and blown head gaskets,
but the Lark never once broke down; it continued
          as though some spiritual warranty were in place,
as though George’s Eastern ways still bestowed . . .
          what was it? Tao? Right practice? Good old grace?
No sooner had it returned from a West Texas
          peyote run than it was off to visit sick Philly parents,
the next driver waiting at the gatehouse like a tag team.
          We changed its oil, sure, but mostly we just let it ride.
Something was going on here, something well into
          the realm of superstition, which we confused with karma.
The Lark’s reign continued for months — or was it years?
          A couple came in with a yellow Caprice that briefly
became our new darling until it developed a rod knock.
          They must have quarreled in it, we decided.
The Lark marched on, always in its no-mind state,
          until the day it got rear-ended in Nashville — bent frame.
We pushed it into the boneyard blackberry thicket
          at the pace of a fallen hero’s cortege, and there,
late at night on its pleated backseat, to the song
          of cicadas, teenagers sometimes made out.

*From 1971 to 1983 The Farm existed as a spiritual commune, home to more than a thousand “voluntary peasants” on 1,750 acres in southern Tennessee. It continues today as a reorganized cooperative with members in charge of their own finances.

For more content by and about Stephen Gaskin (founder of The Farm) and Ina May Gaskin (Stephen’s wife and cofounder of The Farm Midwifery Center) from 1975 until Stephen’s death in 2014, click here.