Mission Valley

By Ainsley Kelly

Fifteen villages of Kumeyaay people
banded together to burn the mission.

Dust and ash, night and flame. What
the burning was named:          Father Francisco Palóu

said the devil was envious we’ve stolen
the heathen.    Dust deviled

crusted on windshields           no rain.            Homes cantilever
over canyons. Over river.       Can you believe

asks my grandmother, when we moved here, there was nothing
on these hills?             Overpass         over underpass,

concrete over steel. La Cañada de San Diego:
most people don't know we have a river,

says my father,            when it rains, they call it flooding.
Father Junípero Serra begged the soldiers, don’t burn the villages—

ordered Diegueños who escaped        brought back and flogged.
Baptism. Basket. Beatify.         Campanario and cañón.

In school, we played mission bingo.              Mission of mustard flower,
mission of mulas and maíz,                mission of mass

graves.             We learned the names of conquistadors.
Sun glared off our windshields.          Serra highway.

Serra Road.     I practiced reading billboards:
Play Barona Casino! Bank Wells Fargo! Go Padres!

Stadium over dairy farm,        mall over village,
freeway over Kumeyaay trail.            Evidence

without story, story without earth.
We build glass-tiled towers to see the bay,    not

as it looked before the dredging, not  
as it looks in my grandmother’s memory,

but as it looks toward      the river-bed,    now filled with freeways
which bring us through the valley         to my grandmother’s house.

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