Los Bibilikos de Rossmoor
"Los Bibilikos de Rossmor" won the First Place poetry prize in Bay Area CLEA's first literary contest. Rosenbaum won the Shoshanna Shabao Prize for Fiction in the 1998 National Sephardi Literary Contest. On the fiction jury were Victor Perera, Ilan Stavans and Jordan Elgrably.
by Stephen Rosenbaum
Long before nightingales
sang love songs
while Albert and Luiza
dined on plastic patio furniture,
conquistadores and sacerdotes
landed with their flags and crucifixes
to affix the names of saints
in the Valley of Mount Diablo
Lo the Landlords of the Latter Day Elders
San Pablo, oh
O San Ygnacio, oh but
seldom San Anseimo.
Like colonial gentry,
they renamed conquests for Britannia
And built with sod and asphalt and brick
the manors of Rossmoor,
paving over the graves of Saklan Indians
and Mexican peasants
with faux lagoons and putting greens.
No more the legacy of El Camino Real,
the mission bell is now a streetsign
In tidy white block letters
are names of vanquished tribes and
vanished Spanish vistas
Reminders of scorched earth
and natives forcibly converted
like the Jews and Moors before them
The blood of the
Most Reverend Holy Office Inquisitors
--who wholly offed every last infidel --
spilled into New World lands.
with every small-minded friar
brandishing the Pragmatica
in pursuit of the last disbeliever
El Espiritu Santo
Santo' Santo' Santo'
There is the roar of freeways
where once were ranchos.
and sandtraps carved out from
Gardens of roses and
and birdbaths are
shadowed by carports,
hover in bushes
kantando, kantando de amor.
The aged and pre-aging
come here for enforced recreation.
To tarry on decks of redwood.
To showcase their independence
and bronzed leathered faces.
Their silver hair
and offwhite teeth gleaming,
they are decked in terrycloth or
Native Sons of the Golden West
join hands with Holocaust Survivors
and Knights of Columbus, Conversos,
Rotarians and Judaizers.
And every Polly, Esther. Peter and Saul
goes shopping at Cosco's in Contra Costa
and lunches on terraces
off Terra California.
They enter Rossmoor Leisure World
driving El Dorados and Sevilles
under portals that bespeak a friendly border crossing
- where smiling sentinels named Rod or Tom
dressed only in their shirtsleeves
protect descendants of Don Rodrigo and Don Tomas
from inside neo-Yeoman huts equipped with video
Albert and Luiza come here
to dream of Constantinople,
hoping to transform aisles of canned soups
and cereal boxes
into the isles of Marmara
and markets of Stanbul
Even self-assured sentries
cannot stop the nightmares of
Townhouses at twilight
become ghettos or juderias
Mount Diablo does not shield the
tombs of Inquisitors and their massacred.
The mission of Torquemada
and Eichmann's minions
is not obscured by a mezzuzah
at the screen door.
Nor soothed by birdsongs
or supermarket Muzak.
At dusk a gardener's walkman
plays a bass ranchera
unheard in the upstairs condo
where a high fidelity player murmurs:
Come quickly my love.
Korre I salvame