Jimmy Santiago Baca, whose work has appeared frequently in THE SUN, saw Ram Dass for the first time last May 13 and sent us this poem a week later.

There are four references that may be unfamiliar: Yo Soy Joaquin is a book by Rodolfo Gonzalez, tracing the history and culture of the chicanos; Atzlan is the legendary Aztec homeland; the seven cities of Cibola are the legendary seven cities of gold; Cabeza de Vaca was one of the Spanish conquistadors who was shipwrecked and wandered alone for years.

— Ed.

To Ram Dass
I.

Wearing
loose, light-colored clothing
in two’s and three’s
and more
winding
down flagstone lanes of campus
hundreds
grouped at the doors of Memorial Hall.

The hall filled with people.
Ram Dass entered
casual
as a wandering farmhand.
He sat
on his cushion
on the stage floor
jug of water
cloth
shoulder bag at his side.
He opened
a small picture folder
set it before him
lit
an incense stick
closed his eyes
breathed deeply.

He wore
a red shirt and white pants
behind him
the deep space of the black stage curtain.

 

II.

In his search
for truth
to be more human
to love
and be love
he had passed through what
we pass through
his cock got hard
he lip-smacked wine
thigh slapped bad jokes
met the I-don’t-give-a-damn
man, all gumption and balls,
knew there was fucking
in the red mud of a country road
in back seats, alleys, beds
paused on a sunday evening
to sit on a porch
with ole boys shooting craps
passed through Harvard
great voodoo center of america
who sent its puppets
over the world pinned and waxed
to kill and maim and torture
while Indians and Chicanos
were handcuffed
and beat down like bloody dogs
and The Rapist
became Therapist
and vw vans chugged long hairs
into san fran
to the beer gulping songs of short hairs
the skull scorched in lsd sun
while lepers dressed in black rags
in courthouses
who sat on benches like old women in parks
ordered indictments for the innocent
and kicked down doors
while the Mohawk Nation
was bloody from BIA bullets
and the hecklers drank peach wine
as fast as barbwire
unrolled around new prisons
and the young hordes sat in gutters
filling their veins
with gibran and ginsberg
Yo Soy Joaquin bursted the chains
and Atzlan prevailed
while janice trembled with her ball and chain
and yielded to eternity
power plants grazed on grass plains
where Navajo sheep and goats
had been forced off
while the cities rumbled
Ram Dass
followed a thread of truth
in himself
and held to it through mountainous cliches
the gaudy glitter and dazzle of godliness
and searched
in the downpour of madblood and doom
to be more human.
And he stuck to his search.

 

III.

Civilrights
marches blazed over America
and earth became a wash rag
soaking up blood of her wounded
while one rioter
walked in himself
back over his life
and as he did so
in the deep darkness
blinking its eyes
he found
another part of himself
and together
they went
burning old thought-buildings
breaking
windows that reflected
false faces
throwing junk into the street
they didn’t need
overturning
truckloads of learning
that simmered
like mist
into thin air,
beliefs reduced to rubble
old solutions
smoldered
and the street named life
behind them
lay strewn
with garbage, crumblings
in their dyings
and they laughed
inhaling the sweet highs
of a reality
disappearing behind them
in the midst of nowhere
now
alone in oblivion
earth and cosmos were left
one would live
down here
and the other in here
but they were both one,
one living inside the other one.

And he stuck to it.

 

IV.

Walking, always walking in himself
he would come upon another
illusion in himself
glimmering seven cities of cibola
his own conquistador
plundering his thought-empire
desecrating his own temples
what was virgin was raped
until nothing was left
he went on
like cabeza de vaca
wild eyed in the desert
shedding his armor
to don his own nakedness
when he came
upon
an Indian and the Indian laughed
at the silly man
who could not find himself
and they travelled together
for years
until finally they came
to the place
to the tombstone
where he saw his name carved.

 

V.

Now he was Ram Dass
now he was the rivers
the dust
in which he rolled
and wept
at the Indian’s feet
now he was of vision heat
a great horizon
encircling earth and the human being.
Walking
still
sticking to the only dance
there is for him
grinding out the grist
for the mill
to be here now, in Chapel Hill
in Memorial Hall
gazing with beautiful eyes and smile.

 

VI.

He was pilot
we audience co-pilots.
I smiled with joy to hear my pilot
say, “Red Exit Signs On
Over The Doors Of Time And Space.”
“Ten 4,” I replied, via the heart.
He spoke.
He paused, breathed deeply
smiled.
We paused in our listening
smiled.
Communication
flowed in flash rushes
then a great groan of breaking water pipes
electrical wires ripping
shudders and tremors
the noise and scenes
all drowned in the silence
of hundreds of people smiling
as the great bulky building levitated off the ground
brushing past treetops
on Franklin Street
open mouths full of mashed hotdog awed
cars crashed into each other
lawyers ran from their studies to their porches
robbing reality (campus property),
but the great building ballooned up
as tiny as a bathtub boat
floating the high wind waves
west.

 

VII.

Over england the queen farted
over iran
Ayatollah accused carter
of sending more commandos
a weird looking helicopter
noted the militants
brezhnev fainted face first
in his platter of pork chops
over india
we heard an old man’s laughter
nixon knelt to his picture
and prayed
kissinger said it threatened national security
and alerted carter
who was counting his peanuts
and poets waved
cattle grazed sleepily as always
unbothered, cats licked their fur
owls hooted
fields were fields
and beautiful as ever
and way down there
the moon
size of a bead
in the palm-size desert
on a small pebble of a mountain bluff
Reason smaller than any grain of sand
howled.

 

VIII.

The building landed
about midnight
same place
I stepped outside
skirted
passersby on the sidewalk
and closing in
to the city sounds and lights
Reason was no longer
smaller than a grain of sand
but a full hackled wolf
baring
its bloody gums and yanking at its chain
giving raw-throated growls
to the faces of others
nearing mine
hurrying by
under the moon
I return to a world of fixed pipes
and connected wires
to a world at the young girl’s feet
that blows its wolf nostrils
covered in hair and crude drivel
its eyes silver dimes
the outside imprints the face of what we have done
and the inside the face of all we have not