The Golden Gate

“Daddy, what is that?” She asked.

She was pointing to the island known as Alcatraz.

They were mid-span about the waters and the gulls.

“What is that?” She asked, this time

pointing to the long gray structure

known as the Bay Bridge.

“What are those?” She said,

pointing to the high rise spires of the city.

“And over there!”

Pointing to the sails, the ships, the boats

that passed gracefully below them.

“Where is our house?” She asked.

“Can we see it from here?” She said,

with little understanding.

The bay breeze whipped through her clothes,

the city lights, the city streets, shining like a promise.

“It is time to fly, Little One.” Her father told her

as he raised her slowly to his arms

and lifted gently.

He raised her above the railing.

He pushed her away quickly and sent her over the side.

He watched the surprise in her eyes as she sped down,

down to the dull green bay waters,

she flew down then sank from sight.

“I’ll be there soon.” He said as he wrestled with the railing

and tossed himself over,

tossed himself over,

toward the comfort of the swells,

and deep into their final moment.

 

(Based on an article from the San Francisco Chronicle)

 

 

 

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Morning Sickness

“Mama don’t go.”

Melvin’s words were simple.

They were brief but they rattled

terribly in his mother’s ears

long after.

Even unto this day,

those few words live long.

 

“I need you.”

He said.

His eyes had failed

to open that damp November dawning.

A fever and a restless night of sickly sleep

brought tears and need in the early morning gray.

 

“Please don’t go. I need you today.”

The words were desperately spoken as the boy’s

mother dressed herself and readied herself for the

commute and work.

 

“Mama’s stay, I’m feeling sick,

I am hot and cold and everything hurts.”

He needed to feel that he was worthy of her moments,

that he was worthy of her concern.

 

“Baby don’t cry, you know that I must leave.

You’ll be okay.”

She kissed him softly on his palid brow and

with the thorough and regretful longing, she left the room

and clicked the door behind her.

 

“Mama don’t go.”

She heard his voice again coming from behind the door.

“I’ll be home shortly.”

She told herself and him as she blended into traffic

and drove the tears from her eyes.

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Catharsis (Uncle Joe’s 1st heart break)

It was cold that day,

in late December, in 1965,

when the north wind storm bounced the car

and us inside it,

and cracked the clouds

and shook loose it’s moisture.

We sat there,

in our cozy privacy.

I sat there,

paralyzed from the temple down, and

enchanted by the sight of her knees, and

fearful of her coming words.

A mouth full of lava slipped down my throat.

Wavering specters danced upon the pavement.

The raindrops pelted the rooftop

then relaxed toward the ground.

I watched them,

I watched.

 

That site and sound again has passed before me

wrenching my focus, dislodging the glaucos sordes.

The sound I heard at age 17,

the sound of empty promise.

That sound again,

Of jetsome thoughts,

exhumes echoes fluid in form:

 

“Don’t change.” She said. “Please, don’t ever change.”

 

 

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The Songbirds (a Fourth Grade Adventure)

“Time for SongBirds.” Miss Kelly said.

“Oh no!” Joe looked up at her bright red hair and freckled face. He quickly lowered his eyes hoping she would take no notice of him. He hated singing. The last time she called on him to sing he croaked like a frog. The class laughed, but Miss Kelly was mad. Her freckled face became almost as red as her hair.

So Joe kept his eyes down and looked at the top of his desk. He did not even want to play with Mary Lee’s hair. It was very long and always hung over the back of her seat and on to his desk. When Miss Kelly was not looking he would tie knots in Mary Lee’s hair or put he would put little pieces paper in her hair.   It was fun to watch Mary Lee go home with her hair looking like a trash heap.

“But not today. I’m not doing anything to make Miss Kelly notice me now.”

“Who wants to be first?” Miss Kelly asked. She waited for someone to raise their hand.

“I will.”   Gail said.   She shyly stood up then moved to the front of the class. Her hair was cut short for a girl, but Joe liked her any way.

“She’d make a nice girl friend,” he thought. “Wait a minute. I can’t even have a bicycle. How am I going to have a girl friend?” He let out a sigh. “I guess I’ll settle for just walking her to school and back.” Sometimes he even carried her books for her.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound . . .” She sang her song softly and sweetly and then sat down.

“That’s cheating.” Joe thought. “She learned that in her church. They don’t sing songs like that in my church.”

Miss Kelly walked to wall chart and next to Gail’s name she colored in a little blue song bird. She now had seven.

“Joseph, would you like to try sing a song this time?” Miss Kelly asked him. He felt a nervous knot grow in his stomach.

“What do you think?” The voice inside him answered.

“O.K.” He said, wisely. The voice inside him said a lot of bad things, but he seldom said them out loud.

“That voice inside me is going to get me in a lot trouble some day.” He got up and nervously walked to the front of the class. “I don’t want Gail to know I’m scared.”

Joe coughed and cleared his throat. A couple of students giggled. They must have thought he was going to be silly again. He tried to be serious this time. He looked at Miss Kelly. She gave him an encouraging smile, so he began.

“Buy a Ford. Buy a Ford. Buy a Ford today. If you can’t afford a Ford, buy a Chevrolet. Hey!”

Joe sat down quickly. Miss Kelly had a funny look on her face, but at least she did not get mad.

“Very nice, Joseph. Where did you hear that song?”

“My Cousin George.” He said meekly.

“I bet your cousin George teaches you a lot of things, doesn’t he?”

Joe just shook his head up and down. Miss Kelly walked to the wall chart and colored in a blue song bird next to his name. Joe was not sure what to think.

“Well, at least I didn’t get yelled at.” His inner voice told him.

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The Lady in the Bed

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    “Who’s that?” I asked.

The year was 1950. I was barely three years old, but I still remember. My memory is a bit fuzzy about exactly where we were. We were probably at the Maryknoll hospital in Monrovia, California. By “we” I mean, my brother and two sisters. My Aunt Nellie was driving, Aunt Emily and my grandma shared the front seat.

The drive from Oxnard to Monrovia seemed to take forever. I had to sit still. That was a real challenge in the best of circumstances. But as a toddler I tended to get carsick a lot. I could not see anything except for the back of the front seat, maybe some clouds if I looked to the side. The winding road didn’t help, but my hands had a simple, practical solution. They didn’t feed me, or give me anything to drink. I tried standing up so I can see out, that did not last long.

Finally we were there. In my little eyes I saw a huge complex of buildings. We walked away to a special building. My grandma and the aunties went inside. The four of us waited outside in the shade. In a short time one of my aunties appeared through a screened window.

“Carlitos, will you lift up Baby Joe?” My brother didn’t say anything. He was about twelve years old at the time. He lifted me up and I stood on his shoulders. I could barely see over the window sill. I pulled myself higher for a better look.

“Hurry up!” My brother urged, his voice was straining. I am sure that my shoes were cutting into his shoulders. My focus adjusted from the mesh of the dusty screen to the bed beyond.

There she was. She was smiling back at me, her smiling and tears colliding. She was propped up by a pillow, in a large room of empty beds. The table next to her had a small oscillating fan that whispered quietly as it blew the air around.

“How are you doing, Jody?” Her voice was comfort. She stretched her arms out toward me.

“O.K.” I answered. My name is Joe, I thought.

My brother lowered me when he could hold me up any longer. I ran off to play and my brother and two sisters looked through the window and took their turns talking.

My grandma and my aunts were inside the room. They were sitting and having conversations but they did keep their distance.

A while later Boy found me and said “Come and say good-bye.” He dragged me back to the building and lifted me up to the window one more time.

“Good-bye Jody.” She said to me. “Take care. You be a good boy now.”

“Good-bye.” I answered to the lady with a warm smile and tears streaming from her eyes.

“Good-bye, Lady in the Bed.”

 

 

 

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Frank and Henry by Carlos Najera

 

Back in 1953 my brothers Frank and Henry Olivas were at a local beer joint here in Oxnard. They met a woman there who was visiting from out of town. She drove a brand-new Cadillac convertible.

The rest of the story is not so nice. They went out for a ride, the three of them. They were on Pleasant Valley Rd. and she failed to stop when they got to Highway 101.

A truck ran into them. The lady was thrown from the car and died instantly, my two brothers as well. They were literally smashed to pieces. They were both in their 30s when the Great One took them away. That left my brother Roberto, sister Natalia, and me.

Thoughts like it doesn’t seem fair popped into my head and mixed with my other sorrows. We are not promised fairness. We are promised a seat at the table when we reach the other side.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

 

 

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The Rose Garden

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Groundbreaking for the Rose Garden took place in 1931. It took six years of planning and planting before it was officially dedicated. The San Jose municipal Rose Garden is 5 and a half acres in size. Thousands of visitors walk through here each year. There are over 4,000 rose plants with 189 varieties planted. The blooms start in April and last all the way into November.

family 1

 

Here we are, in front of the redwood trees planted there. We first moved to San Jose in 1956. I remember being eight years old. I was going to start the new school year as a fourth grader. By the size of me, this must have been our first year there.

Actually, our home was in Santa Clara. They used to be two separate cities but with the growing populations they grew into each other. Our house was a short drive away.

That’s me on the left, short hair, short pants. My sister Teresa sitting next to my dad. My mother was next to my brother Carlitos.

family 2

 

 

This picture must’ve been taken on the same day. It is the same place. I can see now by the way I was standing next to my brother how damaged we were. We are not standing close together. My oldest sister is not even in the picture. We were just four individuals who happened to be standing. Thinking about this in my old age, as much as we wanted to be a family, there was always that distance that you see here.

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The trees in the background on the left, are probably the same trees. I believe they should have been even bigger after all these years that have gone by.

rose

I took these pictures in mid-April. I had to walk through the garden alone. Milady loves flowers but, you know allergies.

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I took more pictures of the roses than these. But I think I might be boring you with rose pictures. Just one more.

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One of the volunteer gardeners told me that this fountain has been there from the beginning. I do not remember that fountain. I think my parents knew what would have happened if I got near it.

 

 

 

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