Cartoon sun spitting out radiants,
footsteps of Ohlone,
strolling naked through the valley.
Seafood so plentiful that the
discarded shells create their own topography.
The robes arrive with clothing,
germs, shiny caballeros,
a god who kills his own son.
They force the natives to
work and eat strange foods.
Once at the mission, their
life expectancy is two to three years.
Seeing such terrifying mortality,
the robes send their caballeros to
the central valley, to find more natives.
Centuries later, the church nominates the
leader of the robes for sainthood.
In truth, there were many tribes.
Ohlone is the only name that survived.
They gave it to a college.
I grew up in the valley.
Sang at the mission for my sister’s wedding.
Have never met an Ohlone.
Have seen the holes where they
ground their acorns.
I picture myself at the
tip of the bay, naked, warm,
picking shellfish from the shallows.
I look toward the green mountains and
see a trail of smoke.
From the collection Fields of Satchmo
Photo by MJV