381 E. Cordova Street
There’s a bleak whiteness
on Cordova Street mixed
with rain and battleship gray.
Smiles are sad, even laughter has an eerie clang.
Whispers prevail and a fog off Burrard Inlet
settles in at four o’clock as the Sisters’ Sandwich Line wraps
itself halfway around the block to the back alley
where wine, urine, vanilla extract and after-shave commingle
into sickly stench. Men and women in their twenties, thirties
forties and fifties have a sameness of pallor and age,
share needles, jugs and sex.
A half-crazed, rheumy-eyed woman
knocks on my parish door insisting I exorcise her.
I protest with words she can’t comprehend
like, “needing the archbishop’s permission,” and “needing the holiness I do not have.”
Nothing I say matters. In frustration I give her my blessing….
the one I’d bestow on a child, a rosary, a holy card.
She thanks me. I watch her step out of my door,
walk down the steps to the sidewalk
belt across Cordova Street, not looking east or west,
oblivious to swirling traffic. She makes it. I wonder how.
In 2012, Dick Brugger was named City of Auburn’s First Poet Laureate. He served as executive director of Auburn Youth Resources for twenty-one years prior to his retirement in 1997. In 1983 he was named Auburn Area Citizen of the Year. For another twenty-one prior years, Brugger was a Franciscan Friar and Roman Catholic priest. His poetry has appeared in PAWA Quarterly, Do Something & Other Poems, and PoetsWest Literary Journal. His prose has appeared in Heart of the Matter. In 2009, the main Auburn Youth Resources building was named The Brugger Building.
“381 E. Cordova Street” was made into an animated video by Dick Brugger’s daughter, artist Jessie Brugger: