A woman with long gray hair,
clad in silk, glowing green
meets her grizzled, shaggy friends
at a concert in a park
with her younger boyfriend in tow,
and the friends look askance at him,
and he looks askance at the friends,
and he reaches an arm around her,
and she clasps his hand behind her back.
Someone intending to honor me
once called me a hippie. I was
not insulted but thought to correct him
and he said, “Oh, anyone countercultural
is a hippie.”
I beg to differ —
I know I’m way too sour
to truly be a hippie. Whatever it means
now is not what it once meant, but
I was there, as these people apparently were…
the only hippies I see here, maybe,
not going by dress but by small clues to attitude
and approach, are the woman and her boyfriend
( who is, by the way, close-cropped and crisp
in polo shirt and clean jeans and cross-trainers)
who are loving each other in the face of disapproval.
Back when I still picked up
I picked up a hippie
headed for a Rainbow Gathering
somewhere west of where I found him.
On the ride we listened to a bootleg tape
of a Dead show in Nassau
and smoked schwag from a pipe
disguised as a belt buckle,
found out we had mutual friends
and when we stopped at my destination
we drank some of the best lemonade
either of us had ever had.
He said, “Hey, friend, why don’t you
just come along? Let’s just go!”
and when I said no he nodded and understood
with no rancor at all, waved and headed back out
on his thumb
while I bent to the errand I’d come for
and then turned around and went home
to house and wife
because regardless of what I’d consumed
by ear and mouth,
I was not a hippie
and he was
and that was the score.
I’m listening to Ween.
I have no idea if these guys are hippies
but their songs are kind of hippie
and I like them. It means nothing at all
to my core being that I like Ween.
It’s just a taste. A flavor in the sunlight
of available options.
In my time
I’ve worn fringe
and moccasins and
beads and yes, twirled
a joint or two, hung out
at a commune and fed my head on shrooms
while blowing shotguns into a cow’s nose
at an all night outdoor party.
I’ve been to more Dead concerts
than Clash concerts
or Springsteen concerts.
I write poetry and play the guitar,
I hang with all kinds of freaks
and think the system stinks,
screwing the Man as often as I can;
yet I say to you
that even in his glory
is not adorned as I am,
no matter how much we may look alike
from time to time.
At five, my friend Will looked out his window
and spied a hippie walking by. “Ma, what’s that?”
he called out. “That’s a hippie,” said Ma. “That’s
what I wanna be when I grow up!” he replied.
Will has long hair and earrings still,
forty-five years later. We run into each other
in the produce section of the store from time to time,
sometimes he has his grandkids with him,
the ones his son left behind when he died in Iraq.
I asked him once if he couldn’t have talked him out of enlisting.
“Oh, I talked him into it. It was after September 11
and someone had to do something. I’m not sorry, either;
yeah, it hurts but he was serving his country
and the kids are sad but it’s OK, they’re proud
of their daddy.”
Ween’s got a song that starts out,
“I’m waving my dick in the wind…I’m waving
my dick in the wind…” I like that song
but this morning it’s making me a little misty.
Someone has to do something
and I’m not a hippie, but I’m glad there are hippies
still out there. Maybe something will come of it;
maybe the old hippies
will keep loving the new ones
and maybe all those road miles
will lead somewhere after all.