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The California Mission Poems (1991)

LA PURISIMA

(Misión la Purisima Concepcion dé Maria
Santisina)

I am not here
Dent, brittle
Weed among weeds
Not here
Palms fragrant with lavender
Hair meandering through
The pale grasses
I can no longer remember
I preferred all martyrdoms
To this dry silent place

There were days when I feared
My own blood. My eyes
Became wounds. They devoured
Me And the flies. Ten thousand
Tangled devils. My palms scoured
Dry and thin as communion wafers

There were nights when the hymns I sang
Became the bones of the Friar, the dust
Upon the graves of stillborn Indians
The winds of La Purisima &
Through the pale grasses
I can no longer remember

-- Philomene Long

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA

The Indians asked the Friar who served the mission to lock
them up on Saturday night lest they succumb to second love
whiskey, which would incapacitate them for singing at service
the next day

Behind the broken gates
Grey arcades
Golden Spanish reredos
The walls hold them
These voices, resplendent
Crying, chanting
Now mute
Clouds over the valley
Of San Juan Bautista
Blue hills, yellow poppies
Bronze skin, silver voices
The bells could be heard
For fourteen miles
Along El Camino Reál
This California wilderness

-- Philomene Long

 

(C) Copyright Philomene Long Estate 2008-2010, All Rights Reserved. Photographs by Pegarty Long.

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