Night Before Immigrant Rights March, May 29, 2010, and: If You Can't on Mission Street, and: Lopez Family Map, 1962-1984
Night Before Immigrant Rights March, May 29, 2010
for all the folks who were on the road to Phoenix, Arizona that night
moon sits on horizonlike a fat catready to shove in one more
low cloud shrinksbright orb to halfan orange slice
lightning claws fieldson both sides of highway 26like ICE in the middle of harvest
dip in roadabracadabras final moon shavinginto darker than chocolate
Border Broncos warn usto turn back, scatterwhile stars show us the way
a few hours laterluna returns in full majestyher blaze louder than any drum [End Page 185]
If You Can't on Mission Street
if no one asks you for moneythe time, a dateif no one asks you to buy alate night-late night, fast pass, passport
if the savvy entrepreneur doesn't stop youwhen you pass the paperback booksof his crack mart spread on a tarpbetween the falafel place and roxie theater
cholitas with cleopatra eyesdon't maddog youhomies parked on 19th or 24thdon't ask, what you claim?
the tamale lady doesn't nod to her coolerwhen you rise from the BART cavethe flores lady doesn't wave a bouquetwhen you're ordering at la taquería
if a little boy on a swing at mission playgrounddoesn't ask you to push him higher! higher!a little girl on the merry-go-round at dolores parkdoesn't ask you to spin it! spin it!
if the cristianos don't alleluia youinvite you to their storefront for salvationhand you a free watchtoweror awake magazine
the viejo selling yerbas para los hombresdoesn't nod'n'wink at youthe hombres huddled 'round the old hunt's on 20thdon't say, oye mija or mijo(well, consider yourself lucky)
the palatero doesn't ring his bellwhen he passes youthe fruit lady doesn't offer elote, mangowhen you pass her [End Page 186]
if the cd sellers don't let you look through their casesand blast a sample on their boom boxesthe dvd vendors don't sell yesterday's new releaseat today's special price
if a señora doesn't accept your offer of helpwith her bolsas of foodor the lady with a babydoesn't take your seat on the 14
the young multilingual latinadoesn't stop folding clothesthe asian or palestinian store ownersdon't watch you when you walk in
the man with the red-painted facedoesn't smile at youthe woman with baby-powdered eyelashesdoesn't blink at you
the filipino man who smokes invisible cigarettesdoesn't salute youas he marches up and downthe coolest street in town
if somebody passes by and doesn't speak to you in englishmexican puerto rican cuban or south american spanishspanglish caló a dialect of mayan quiché quechuatagalog vietnamese cantonese mandarin samoan
then you've had your last shoe shinetake the stuff stolen from usthat you were trying to sell back to usat ten times the price
delete all the photosof little, brown children and adultsyou took without anyone's permissionburn your notes for your study
go kill time before grad school somewhere elsegive notice at your jobthe one that supplementedyour trust fund monthly deposit [End Page 187]
i suggest you suggestsomeone who actually knows the communitygo save another at-risk peoplethe folks back home, your home
jump on a buscall a cabrun don't walkand don't think of ever coming back! [End Page 188]
Lopez Family Map, 1962-1984
Nana and Grandpa moved to a flat off 19th after they lost the house in Pacifica and returned to the City. There's a photo of the uncles left to right: skinny Uncle Mickey smiling innocently before shipping out to Vietnam, Uncle Bobby's quick right fist dangles at the bottom of his Pendleton, Uncle Tony's hands rest on his younger brothers' shoulders with a knowing affection and calm, Uncle Joe is wickedly handsome and invites love or trouble in his white T-shirt and black chinos, scrawny Uncle Tommy's glasses blur his eyes even before his exposure to Agent Orange.
Around the corner from Nana and Grandpa, this is where Mom and Dad and us four lived together. This is where me and my sister wore the same dresses in different colors. Where Dad flipped silver dollar pancakes on Sundays. Where the boys and us girls ran around in our choines before Mom gave us a bath.
Mom and Dad took us to visit Uncle Joe and Auntie Mary Lou. We walked up Castro then turned in at the neon colors. Us kids stopped in front of a tray with glaze, sugar, cinnamon, jelly, and old-fashioned chocolate with sprinkles. Mom nudged us to the back door. She held my hand as we climbed the wooden steps in the dark. Before we reached the top, I heard Uncle Joe boom, "Look who's here!"
Auntie Rita and Uncle John lived in that apartment next to Judy Batanga's between Sanchez and Noe.
Uncle Joe and Auntie Mary Lou lived half a block from Mission Playground. When they first moved back to the City, the uncles hung out at its basketball court, played tennis and baseball when they cut classes at Mission High.
Uncle Joe and Auntie Mary Lou moved around the corner. After they found a new place, Auntie Rita and Uncle John moved in when Krissy was a baby. Someone in my family rented this flat for more than 35 years.
After Dad and the boys packed up boxes and mattresses, Mom fell in love with Al and moved us girls to the Haight. There's a photo: Al's gold-rimmed left-front tooth flashes a smile. His eyes are half closed. Mom leans into Al with her arm [End Page 189] around him without disturbing his perfect afro. Lis sits on Al's lap. She's wearing a blue plastic lei. I'm standing between Mom and Al, resting my hand on his leg. My yellow plastic lei touches the bottom of the curlies Mom put in my hair.
Me, Mom, and Lis lived with Nana and Grandpa. Uncle Bobby, Uncle Mickey, Uncle Joe, and Joanna. Auntie Diz, Mary, Cece, Fran, and Teddy. This is where Uncle Joe never came home again.
After Nana packed away Uncle Joe's quilt forever, Mom moved us downstairs from Auntie Rita. Uncle Mickey lived with us until he got married. Then Uncle Tony took over his bedroom.
Nana moved next door. The-other-side-of-the-wall bang-bang "come-and-eat NOW!" next door. Our family lived in three of the six flats.
Auntie Diz moved across from Mission Dolores. Us girls went to catechism on Saturdays and Mass with Father Miles on Sundays. Father Miles made God feel warm. The catechism teacher drew a huge bumblebee on the board and said, If you commit a sin you'll go to hell and bees will sting you over and over forever. We were in fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades when we made our communions with MD's second-graders.
After middle school, we moved with Nana to the alley across the street from that place where we never went to when it was called The Sons of Norway or The Women's Building. Most of us eventually passed through the bar on the corner, The Dovre Club.
After we were evicted, Mom took us to her Tía Mary's flat on 3rd Street in Dogpatch. Took us to where she grew up 40 years earlier. My first morning of classes at State, Mom got out on her side and set up her compacts, bottles, and tubes on the bed. She opened her powder, brushed the packed grains, looked into the mirror, and as she blew away stray granules, she sighed: Get up, mija.
Mom's friend rented her an apartment called a mother-in-law. It was a converted garage. Mom got sick and Nana convinced a hospital to admit her after another one wouldn't. We didn't know Mom was going to live there. For a month. Didn't know she was going to die there. Didn't know I was going to die there too. [End Page 190]
Cathy Arellano is a San Francisco Mission District native who writes about growing up brown, coming out queer, and living as true as she can, which is kind of crooked. Her chapbook, I Love My Women, Sometimes They Love Me, published in 2002 by Monkey Books sold out, and she looks forward to Kórima Press publishing her poetry and prose collection, Salvation on 24th Street, in fall 2013. Her work has been published in various anthologies, journals, and blogs. Today, she lives in Albuquerque and when she is not teaching in the classroom or community settings, she enjoys reading her poetry around town. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.