haibun
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June 2005, vol 1 no 1

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Tad Wojnicki, USA

 

Mission

Parking lot swells and shrinks with cars and crowds coming and going. People say hi, wave good-bye, yell to outyell the kids at the playground over the wall, and follow their noses past the stone saints to the tomby, waxy chapel and a cheery vestry. They dodge the heat of the flagstone yard.

churchyard
serra's stone face
worn away

By the school bus, Chico and Sunshine convulse to a rap song. Clutching a CD-player, he fists the air. If they didn't have their clothes on, I'd swear they were screwing. A moment later, he slumps in the chapel pews alone. Words of prayer crawl the chapel air like maggots.

"lower only
to angels"—
butt-shined pews

The mission hugs Mount Toro's foothills, grazed by cows, goats, and deer. One of Junipero Serra's 19 missions, it is two centuries old—and looks it. It's not doing well. Needs money, upkeep. So does the graveyard, housing Indian bones. It's wildly overgrown. Their backs broken by forced labor, spirit gone, the converts died like flies, clutching their smallpox-infested blankets. Slabs of sandstone press their chests. Over the stone wall, I see wreaths, fresh dirt, and a funeral Ford, fixed for the next.

summer drought
mission boneyard
in bloom

Outside the wall, kids slide out of a spaceship, spin on whirligigs, climb monkey bars, and cry murder on the swings. Fleshy slopes claim the sky, giving birth to each cry.

mission bells
crows peck crumbs
in holy communion

Finally, the crowds sniff their way to the vestry, converted into a wine-tasting room for the mission vineyards. Father Nuncio waves his plump hand dotted with liver spots. Brother Bob beams. The wine gurgles into the glasses. Juices spill. Cookies crumble. The cash-register jingles. The mission is saved one glass at a time.

mission lot
cheek to tire
girl weeps

 

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