Literary Hook: A look back at Woodstock — four decades later

August 12, 2014

Christine Swanberg

Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

In August 1969, the original Woodstock took place in New York state. Yep, I was there. This poem was written 40 years after the experience. Now, 45 years later, here it is.

Woodstock: Four Decades Later

We wandered far from flimsy, free love fantasies,

far from our deluded Dionysian debacle,

far from the Merry Pranksters and paisley buses,

so far from the Magical Mystery Tour;

slapped into the slippery, muddy slopes of real life.

Oh, but what a rite of passage —

that great white walrus of Woodstock.

What I remember most was rain and mud,

walking in the muck uphill, pilgrims plopping onward

for a glimpse of freshly-minted saints and Sirens:

the major arcane of musicians, ghosts of Woodstock past.

Pilgrims love their martyrs though we didn’t know it then,

walking the counter culture via dolorosa barefoot,

lured and charmed by our branded saints and Sirens.

But after the Siren songs and freak rains sent

us blowin’ in the wind, where’s home?

What happens after such a grand Chautauqua?

Where do revelers of revival and revision go?

Some wandered the desert, foraging every new manna

delivered by ever-darkening gods,

every new high, finally reaching ecstasy or death.

Some stayed in communes, like promiscuous monks

practicing vegetarianism and free love.

Some became able to do much of nothing.

Gurus grew like grapes. Mantras spiraled like vines.

Some still went to Viet Nam, Canada or jail.

Some marched until Viet Nam collapsed. Most of us moved

on into a changed world, and tried to make our way in it.

First published in Soundings, then in The Alleluia Tree.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

Posted Aug. 12, 2014

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