My great-times-4 grandfather slipped on the trail of life,
crossing the Mexican border into California--
Jailed in San Diego. Branded like meat:
illegal immigrant. Julián Popé thrown back into the oven of desert.
He crossed the Mexican border, met California
in rags, with guns and a few amigos. Imagine:
illegal immigrant Julián Popé walking through desert,
remembering sight of ocean—he hadn’t bathed in months,
I imagine. Julián in rags, with guns and a few amigos,
desired nothing more than land for his someday family,
months before he saw the ocean. He bathed in hope, blind
to the future: axe and drowning—the ocean his own blood.
Desiring nothing more than land for his someday—family
and freedom--Julián Popé returned to California,
his blood-ocean future. Before the axe and drowning,
he toiled as a miller east of the city of angels.
For freedom, Julián Popé returned to California--
not his birthplace, Kentucky, or Taos, where he was baptized at 26.
Julián toiled as a miller in East L.A. before seeing angelitos,
twice leaving New Mexican hills and placitas.
Why a tardy Taoseño baptism with birthplace re-christened Quinteque?
He changed his faith to marry Maria Salazar, his primary vigil, and locked love’s door.
You see, Julián Popé had lived in New Mexican towns and hills
for 12 years without a legal wife—despite embarrassed records of a daughter or two.
He changed faith to marry Maria Salazar after loving her prima, Ysidora Vigil.
His son-in-law said Abuelo Julián Popé was mountain man William Pope,*
years without a legal wife. Despite two daughters, records said natural
instead of his name. My great-times-3 Abuela Juliána was named for Julián.
We know our abuelo, Julián Popé, was mountain man William Pope--
Distant cousins call Juliána, Popé, to this day. He abandoned his natural children,
including my great-times-3 Abuelita Julianita and her older sister.
They never knew about the valley, or winery not far from Napa, named for their father.
Distant cousins call Juliána, Popé, to this day. Cabrón abandoned his children,
but ¡Aye chingao! he gave me life. What am I to think? Should I forgive him?
Juliána never knew about Pope Valley, land grant of his death. I visited its winery,
sipped merlot beneath two hundred oak trees he may have planted—it was easy to imagine.
Julián’s transgression gave me life. I think I should I forgive him--
especially when I like being nieta of one who has a valley for namesake.
It was easy to imagine. Same two-hundred-year-old tree roots drinking blood as merlot,
absorbing screams. Julián’s axe. Accidental slice. Leg releasing sea into drunken earth.