This poem is about a period of time in the late sixties and early seventies when
I was undergoing a personal transformation: a transition from political activism to a more
spiritual and artistic mode of existence. In 1968 I was one of the “Buffalo Nine” draft resisters
and was in two federal trials that ended, in my cases, in hung juries. Other defendants
were not so lucky and ended up serving time in federal institutions or having to
flee the country. At the same time I was Chairman of the Martin Sostre Defense Committee.
Sostre’s case and the B9 tri als were interconnected. Sostre was owner of the
Afro-Asian Bookstore and was arrested in 1987 for riot and subversion although the immediate
charges were arson and drugs. Sensing a frame-up by state and local police, I
started up a defense committee for Martin who was labeled “Martin X” in the newspapers.
After my B9 trials I was expelled from WWP (Worker’s World Party) an old left
group that correctly found me too anarchistic for their tastes. I couldn’t find steady work
in Buffalo (the FBI had the curious habit of visiting my employers) and decided to travel
to the West. I began drifting through the great southwest, first visiting the Grand Canyon.
After various psychedelic experiences in Arizona , New Mexico, California, and Oregon, I
ended up living and working for one year in Naco, Sonora on the American border where
I taught in a grade school. The poem is about this period of time and afterwards, backpacking
in Europe and various adventures there. The political life was never completely
abandoned and I continued to work with Amnesty International on Martin’s behalf which
helped win his release.
- Jerry Ross "Twenty Years of Yawning"