by Thomas R. Smith

That August morning forty years ago

in Wisconsin, we six mismatches,

refugees, and orphans piled into Linny¹s

Chevy Nova with no food, no change

of clothes, almost no money, though lots

of reckless, desperate, spontaneous

youth, and drove all night to upstate New York,

where, becalmed in traffic to Yasgur¹s farm,

we joined a seven-mile foot caravan,

passed joints, drank jug wine laced with only

God knows what, got separated, rained on,

and didn’t find each other again

until it was over.  For three days we lived

hand to mouth on whatever came to us,

got lost, got found, befriended others who were

wandering.  The first night I shared a tarp

with some Philly hippies, the second an

Army surplus tent with a girl from a New

Hampshire commune, her feet dirtier than mine.

Our movie stood in awe of its own soundtrack:

Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone,

the Who, fringed Daltry twirling his mike like some

golden god of the dawning Woodstock nation.

When on Monday morning Hendrix blasted

his scorched reveille, we found ourselves still standing,

victors in some improbable battle,

though it might have ended differently

had a particular Pennsylvania state trooper

known two kids in the car were underage.  

(One whiff of our gear and he hastened us

on without searching the trunk where our stash

lay swaddled in debris of the pilgrimage.)

Straggling back to tell the tale to small-

town friends—our nerve-endings, it may be, set

permanently tingling—we split up again

and this time didn’t regroup for decades,

though when we did, we understood that each

had in his or her own way smuggled

back home a tiny piece of the Garden.

Now I think, what a crazy, lucky,

right thing it was for us to do.

We didn’t keep our adventure waiting.

We didn’t worry how we¹d get home.

We just jumped in that Chevy Nova

and drove.  That time will never come

for us again, though it will last as long

as we need it to, the rest of our lives.  


For Linny, Leo, David, Carol, and Mike