Avatar Index


The Mission (Travel Notes)

"He's lucky to have you. You're very pretty."
said the stranger near the mission. "Nothing
a good pair of sensible shoes can't fix,"
said I, tipping my hat at the sun.

The huge hard bridge rose up from the fog,
like a steaming piece of brightly buttered toast.
I turned to my love, brushed the dirt
from her face, winked at a Spanish dancer, sang:

"We're in San Francisco! No longer
slaves in the bowels of the ship!" "Estamos
en el ciudad de Saint Francis," came
the echo from the bay " extraordinary

experience..." claimed the Bolivians
who danced all day for free. And like
two worm-drunk starlings unable to fly straight
we stumbled up the hill, through the Castro, onto Haight.

Nobody dies in the city of St. Francis.
That is, no bodies are interred beneath
the city. Those dead at the century's last
turn were dug up and shipped off, except-

in the mission cemetery: a statue
of Fray Junipero Serra, several dozen
scattered graves: dead Irish, mostly-
Counties Cork and Antrim, expired, seven years old.

My lover loved an Irish man. My mother
forgot most of her Spanish by age seven.
Tengo siete años. I'm twenty-seven years old.

Forgive my incongruities. The truth
gets in the way-the city is to blame...
what concrete! What men! What color!
The earthquake in ought-six stripped

away the street-names and leveled
the parish church-36,000 adobe bricks
reduced to dust. I last attended Mass
when I was twelve. And five years ago,

in Golden Gate Park, three un-uniformed
officers frisked me for cocaine I didn't have.
Love was a simple thing then, God bless it.

At the Hotel Allison, my lover traces
the tattoo on my back-claims the blues
have turned to greens, says she loves me
more than the city loves its dead, claims

my inadequacies for her Millenium Project.
In 1900 they dug up the bodies, moved
them out of town. I try to curse the Holy
Ghost, but I'm told it's hard to do that sin,

so hard in fact, the rules have been lost.
If you're evil enough, you'll figure it out.
My mother's real father, Francisco Jaurigué,
was a second-generation Mexican,

and no saint. His parents came from Basque
country, old Christians, not a drop
of Moor or Jew blood, no. This must explain
my pale skin, my inability to dance.

I'm twenty-seven years old and love
is not a simple thing. The mission, though,
is beautiful-I've never seen a real Basilica
before. Tengo veinteisiete años.

What will we do with these bodies of ours?
My legs, for instance, ache. These hills
are murder. Someone bring me a glass
of champagne. Someone bring me a book-

a bit of bread, some cheese. We must,
I repeat, we must remain civilized. Until
then, the facts: Father Francisco Palou
celebrated the first Mass at Mission Dolores

on June 29, 1776. The city of St. Francis
had its official beginning, five days before
the Declaration of Independence. It's been a long day,
a long walk, a long two hundred-odd years.

We stop on the corner of Market and Powell.
A man sidles up, leans in to my lover, and says:
"He's lucky to have you. You're very pretty."
She smiles. I try to dance, tip my hat, pray.

We celebrate one more beginning, worry
for the souls of those unburied, get our papers
in order. She takes my photograph in front
of a cable car, of all things. ¡Dios mio!


"The incredible never surprises us because it is the incredible."
Emily Dickinson

"I have obtained an aphrodisiac. It is made from the pockets of the Pocket
Fox, a rare animal that only existed for three weeks in the sixteenth century."
C. Montgomery Burns

"The Romantic movement left, when it departed, a tremendous gap in poetry
which could be filled by criticism and by literary theory but which would be
better left alone."
Kenneth Koch

...theres some thing in us it dont have no aint us but yet its
in us. Its looking out thru our eye hoals.
Russell Hoban, "Riddley Walker"





© Copyright 2004 Avatar Review
Comments or contact: