--for Carmina Salcido
Acacia thick in the air like horse hair,
bees in the yellow mustard weed, bees in the mind,
and the spring of Ramon Salcido returns
like remembering a film in a foreign language
images in a dark room, a nodding without you.
To be in a small town, is to repeat the same
experiences again every day, as if each day
of seventh grade, the same girl told me what
finger-banging was, and I drew a picture
of a clown on my silver binder, smoking.
And then Ramon Salcido entered, an automatic
villain, come from the vineyards,
come from the river border, from Agua Caliente.
The rumors spread like the three pronged poison oak;
a murder, another murder, his three girls found
with their throats cut in a dumpster in Santa Rosa.
Some say the valley is a perfect climate
for growing the most delicate of fruit, the varietals.
We prided ourselves on our madrone trees,
the smell of oak all the way up the switchback
of Trinity Mountain, and down into Tortilla Flats.
The night of the murders, they put Becky Lambert
on Channel 2 news, to interview her about
the climate of fear, locking of doors,
and everyone else was terribly jealous--
she looked pale and perfectly concerned.
In Diamond A Ranch, where their estates
were listed in the paper, as updated and upgraded
and the only things of color were the dark-eyed
Junco and the Western Scub Jay, in the fields of
Sobre Vista, people were worried.
In a small town, reports come in waves,
one large game of telephone and talk back,
and soon facts were confirmed, a dead wife,
two dead girls, six counts of manslaughter
and the third daughter found, astoundingly,
Say something and you’ll be better
than most of us who walked into our classrooms
and bent toward the afternoon continuum--
the horse flies more interesting than most days,
their slow lumbering thick in our uneasy room-air.
I would like to say it brought us closer
together. O bless the shared tragedy. Disaster
on the mainland! But the truth is no part
of a story, or rather not a part that anyone believes;
one girl lived, and they found Ramon Salcido
in Mexico six days later and now he believes
he’s found God.
To be in a small town is to repeat the same
experiences again every day. Sixteen years later,
the same bright reflection of traffic underneath
the new yellow of spring heat, the cars going both
up the mountain, and down, everyone looking over
their shoulder for a dark enemy but one girl,
over and over, returning to us--in a familiar shape,
a good object, a hope in the weeds, a life
springing forth, unstoppable.