Mark Abel
Language: English

(Soledad, Monterey County)

Far from Mexico, my husband rode
in the back of a truck, aching for work.
And they brought him here, to the valley of Salinas.
Rich soil, good rains, he heard the earth sing.

The work was hard and dirty, and the pay pitiful,
dollars a day.
And in the evening, they slept on the ground.
“Aim my road on your bow of hope,” the poet said.
So soon I had to come; I was always his inspiration.
Love overcomes struggle.
We made our home in a place called Soledad.

Poor but determined, we clung to family and faith.
Faith was a good thing to have then.
On the ladder’s bottom rung,
where the saddest songs are sung.
Prejudice and poverty, few rights or capital,
the police were nasty, the landlords cruel.
It took its toll on our people.

Some turned to drink, drugs and violence
-- like my brother, Umberto, buried in the cemetery in the hills.
Not far from the blue Pacific and beautiful Monterey,
But they didn’t want us there, we with the rough hands,
Los Olvidados -- the invisible tillers of the fields, mowers of the lawns,
at night confined to our barrios.

We had to fight to belong here.
Powers That Be intending to keep control.
The growers thought they could crush us.
We won respect by showing we would not back down
from our dignity.
Those were such bitter days.

As the generations passed,
calm descended on our dusty little town.
One day my daughter brought a book from school.
It told a sad story, “Of Mice and Men.”
Finally I understood why this place is called Soledad.

Now all my children have flown;
there’s no work for them here.
Must the cycle roll along forever?
Out to The Pinnacles I will ride,
where sacred rocks were moved by God’s hand
millenia ago.

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