The Mission of Dolores

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Ben Banging the Drums

From a new novel I’m working on titled Not Forward but Upward. Pages 90-100, poetry prose story, heart art.


Me llamo La San Fran Mision de Dolores

Varrio of peace and pain

Born as a savior
San Francisco
Bald-in-the-middle monk
You taught me to find peace in blood

Creek of sorrows
You cursed me the tears of a woman
True torture

I am floating in the ether
I am in every homey’s cup
In every junkie’s needle
In every rat roaming around
The dirty Mision
Not the clean pristine paradise of
Native Ohlones

I was not always Mision Dolores, the mother of pain. I was jungle and woods, water and fire. I was the happy brown dirt that you cannot see covered now by gray sad cement. I was the original, that which has always existed. One day man pulled down the sun, and I became Dolores, the suffering of so much.

Allow me to tell you my sad story, and let me begin from before the beginning, which has no end.

The soul’s goal is creation

If there is an alma
It is beyond us
But we find ourselves here
In this place


So we try to remember and invent this
Blessing and curse
That we know is not us
But that we believe is after us

Ready to be born
Upon our death
Then will it live
But only when we are gone

The soul’s goal is destruction

In this place were lava and darkness, lightning and thunder. It was loco, the only way it knew to be. Eventually the green grass grew. Colors of lavender, magenta, and turquoise sprung everywhere. There was no name for such beauty. It had not been corrupted by a lie such as beauty.

The people of the dirt, brown just like the ground, they came. They played. They made love. They lived and died and knew the eternal spirit.

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
Fantastic faith and
Utter imagination required:

Even the
Even the
Is a blessing

So, really, I have always been here, but the name, the make-believe, of suffering is new. It came with the pointy helmeted people, the Spaniards. They saw me and loved me, for who does not love water? But they also predicted the pain that would fall from their steel swords. When they first witnessed my creek giving life to the future, they praised la mas firme Nuestra Senora de Dolores, Our Lady of Sorrows, the mother of God, Mary, who is usually depicted with seven swords piercing her sorrowful heart. When they named me, my water turned to blood.

But they soon after needed a new name to hide the truth of pain, Dolores. The holy priest officially named the Mission San Francisco de Asis. I am the most ancient structure in the city. Saint Francis, the peaceful servant who could talk with the animals, hid the truth beautifully. Using the lie of San Francisco, the pointy helmeted people enslaved and killed the native Ohlones.

San Francisco may be a Saint and considered the champion of liberty, the capital of free love and flower power, but I tell you it is a lie. I tell you to look deeply into yourself, into this place. My bloody tears, my painful life, at least, knows its own true story. But I understand

It is not for everyone:
With its
Intellectual acrobatics and
Overly elaborate interrogations of

Give most people some beer and barbeque
A roof over their heads
Some lies to read
Some laughs to catch
A clean, private restroom and
They are fairly fulfilled and

People don’t need a cause
Or education or
Enlightenment or
Dumb fucks would rather be
Alive than

Consciousness is stuff someone made up and
Damned us with
Because of the vanity of their words
The insecurity of their ego

No, no, no
We must not live for something or
Die for something
It is not true

We live and die simultaneously
We choose our own poison
We choose our own poetry

The poem of San Francisco did not stay in the dreams of the Spaniards or, later, the Mexicans. The 49ers, whites only, eventually came to town, those dirty bearded lice-ridden diseased bums. They came, and with them came the American dream of Manifest Destiny.

Do you understand now that this great city of San Francisco is actually a state?

A State of Emergency


At some point the panic becomes passive
Then you understand
How even the devil can thrive in hell

Every day is an emergency
One day closer to the ultimate riot
It lasts a long time
Yet it is really nothing at all
The blink of an eye
The scratch of an ass
Then it is over

A state is not an action
A state is prolonged perpetual torture


You can smile in between the yanking of your fingernails
Everything begins and
Everything ends
Just like the sea
Just like the stars
Just like that time you were crying alone twisted in bed and the whole world was armed against you because you deserved damnation
Just like the fires that burned in Baltimore and Watts and Guatemala and in your barbeque pit

What matters is the Action, not the state of being
You can down a beer while the carne asada cooks
You can raise your fist as you drown
You can pick up a pen and write
Because we all know the story of the pen:
Once upon a time a simple man pulled out his pen against the swords and guns aimed at his heart
With full faith he shouted:

“The pen is mightier than the sword!”

They killed him immediately

That is why I am telling you this story, so that it is written, so that you can understand.

The Mission, La Mission, my Dolores, grew to become the most powerful city on planet Earth. Saint Francis preached the dream, not of peace, but of power and greed, lust and liberty. It created millions of converts rushing to glittering gold. La Mision was the stomping ground for bear and bull fights, the lands around my nearly abandoned mission church became a place of death, one for gambling and dueling—for settling your business like a stupid man.

By 1906 when the great quake destroyed the rest of the city, I, La Mision, was the only structure that stood strong. When downtown crumbled, I became a headquarters, and more people began to discover my beauty. By the 30’s the Italians, the Irish, they had spread all over 22nd Street, Folsom, Capp Street, and my own namesake, Mission. It was a bustling time.

Then during the 1940-1960s, lots of Californios and Mexicanos immigrated into the area—because they had been kicked out from their original varrio on Rincon Hill; the city said they had to hand over their homes for progress, the creation of the western landing of the Bay Bridge. Once the homies came, the white people started leaving, but, unlike the myths that exist, it was never white flight. It was that the whites had promise for something else, The American Dream. The government gave them the sweetest candy, fully subsidized homes in segregated places like Walnut Creek, Danville, Alamo; the Mission Latinos were forbidden to purchase homes in the whites only world, so they were stuck and also blessed to build community, the varrio.

I like these people. Brown like the dirt; they loved the truth, just like the Ohlones had. They danced and partied in their poverty. They laughed through their deaths—Dia de Los Muertos. And I even laughed at myself for being so sad, full of Dolores. They have so much to be sad about, but they carry class,

The free and unmerited favor of God
As manifested in
The salvation of sinners and
The bestowal of blessings

I deliver to you
Not solutions
Torments people go through
Trying to solve problems
Clashing voices
Morbid moral tortures

Their struggles are
What help us with our own
No sensationalism
Just gutter truth

Some sin
In order to
Enjoy confession
Others do it as an
With a heavy heart
Full of shame and disgrace
Routes, too, to reality

This state of
Confusion and brutality are
You know you are
Full of anxiety
Awake at 3:00 in the morning
Mumbling Hail Marys and
Our Fathers
Knowing they cannot
Help you

Troubled inside
You find
You own your mistakes
Like in chess
When you move the queen
To her death
It cannot be taken back

It is independence
No one understands you
You are beyond understanding or
With the world everywhere around you
Yet you are not in it

It is a state of grace
To figure out
How to get out of
More into
Your own

La gente did both, figured out reality better than any school textbooks and also got into the depth of their own diarrhea, angel dusted on the streets, lost in space, outer space, beyond my territory, shouting to the stars and screaming at illusions, singing in the middle of the night on Capp Street, taking vacations to the 7th floor of General Hospital or 850 Bryant, the Hall of Justice, the House of Horrors.

The 90’s brought the beginnings of gentrification. First they rounded up all the homies and demonized them, had even their own family and community members asking for the homies’ annihilation, without knowing that they were simply volunteering for their own demise, because the big boys at City Hall would push them out next. Mass incarceration, gang injunctions, and also pride in this place—for when you have nothing else, at least you have the air you breathe, the air you pretend to own

Gente have died
For my streets
Tattooed my
All over
Their arms
Beautiful calligraphy and
Olde English
Cholo script

The cholos made my

In the new millennia, the 2000’s, the mass deportations, yes, Deportations, erupted out of the Mission. All of a sudden, these houses that served the poor, that a pobre could purchase back in 1977 for twenty or thirty thousand dollars, became worth one million dollars! It was the same exact house, at the same exact spot; the door knobs were not transformed to gold, yet out of pure imagination and evil, the houses were now forcing segregation all over again. Just like the signs of the past:

Whites Only

Whites only could afford these homes. It was the returning cycle of the people of the dirt to be

Kicked Out

The Homeboy tattoo true:
Smile Now, Cry Later 🙂 😦

It was a boast and compliment to be kicked out—
Of school
Of church
Of civilization
Only the streets were where savages belonged

Even donut holed cops knew the homies owned
Las calles
So that was their goal:
To be joined with streets
Concrete at their feet
Beers mixed with tears
Angeldust til I bust
Laughing at infinity: por vida

With pride and panic
They learned
Even infinity has its limits
Because they had to pay

My treasured gray cement and
Beautiful black tar
No longer loves them

Break their hearts

Now is later

A new evil emerged by the 2010’s. The Mission became a hunting ground, and the brown people of the dirt were the ones being hunted, hunted by educators that failed them, politicians that poisoned them, police that killed them. Mysterious fires were burning down buildings and blocks. The cholos responded with their art and culture, with their lowriders bouncing. They returned to Smile Now, Cry Later, sang only to


The answer to everything is
Yesterday is gone forever
Tomorrow is impossible
There is only
One answer to

Camus understood:

“He imagined a future of
Solitude and suffering
And he took a difficult
In such imaginings
But this is because
He fancied the
Noble and harmonious
And in reality
He thus imagined a future without
But the moment pain was there
No further life was possible”

The comfort of nostalgia
The imagination of a future
Is not

If you understand or
There would be
No more
To learn
No more
To accomplish

Our lives

I see them there still bouncing! They are planning something. They are doing something to tap the source, not to pretend a solution, but to be part of the eternal struggle. La Gente are accepting their roles in this tragedy, and these pinche cholos y cholas, they are making it a comedy, the way it truly is, which is not a tragedy or a comedy, but simply drama.

It is good literature
If the main characters
How stupid
They are

It does not need a plucking
Of eyes
A tragic
To be or not to be

Great stories
Go on

Crushes us all
It is not special magic

So tell your story
The way it is
Admit your
And you are
On your way to
That which we all share

One day
One night
The seats will be empty and
The curtain will simply

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