Santa Clara

The gentle flanks of Santa Clara. A brown bag of salty piñon nuts. The brilliant day rises up in the noisy peace of a weekday in town; Zeke (who’s burly shape I note nearly fills the cab of the truck) is off to work; the three year old carving of Saint Clare takes a more slender form with each gouge of my aunt’s chisels; tanagers, sparrows, finches, juncos, robins, pigeons and starlings chat like neighbors.

I’ve learned the masculine gesture of shelling piñon in the mouth. I think of the .22 rifle that hermano Juan gave me, and the trick way it has of ejecting shells. Dry precision. The porch rattles as he rumbles down the alley in his faded El Camino. Is remembrance prayer? I am wearing the sweater a sister knit, knocking the rock maple mallet my aunt had made for my scrawny hands 30 years ago against a buttery piece of sugar pine donated by my father. A porch, a santo, a cool summer morning in the North. I feel sun drenched, sentimiento. Pleased to remember my family, but as pleased to be away from them.

When she is done and carries a half-sized silver monstrance studded with onyx and jasper, she will be paraded on a palanquin made by Mr. Cruz. One year soon. Her feast day is August 11. I would be happy to be one of the bearers, but maybe getting kids from town–Lolo, the Amandas, Chicho or maybe the Brittanys– is a better idea. It’s up to the new father. If he doesn’t want to place her in the church, then I’ll ask to put her in the cafe which bears her name. I can picture her against the hundreds of regional cattle brands George has painted on the walls, smiling down on the plates of smothered burritos or chicken fried steak.Sometimes she can dwell in the windy solitude of the oratorio.

With the water use and landfill lawsuits coming up, the village needs help. Butler’s Lives narrates how Saint Clare defended Assisi from Frederick II’s mercenary saracens by placing the Blessed Sacrament on a parapet to frighten them. It is tempting to think of the multinational Herzog as an emperor, and the Daniels family as saracens. But there is something wrong about the comparison. Fatuously I’ve thought that if CEOs and land barons spent a single evening in any of a dozen kitchens here–including mine own–they would pine for this collection of dormered adobes and old trailer homes, of enjoyable widowers, and affectionate drunks.





© Tasso 2000