La Valla Escondida

When I first came to this hidden place,
there were still citrus groves along Via Rancho;
lemon-scent’d air hung over blue lilac hills,
and those who grew up here talk of orchards
where now freeway & shopping mall
continue to encroach upon elfin forest. I could not
have endured the devastating sight of flowering oranges
bulldozed under for days on end in preparation for the parking pavilions.
We don’t fight, we don’t scream-
we rarely look up from our magazines..

The so-called end of the dry cycle this past year
has further eroded the land’s reprieve from development;
prickly pear & coyote gourd have overrun the disturbed soil
of the drought-abandoned country club/ golf course
(a resort in harmony with nature, the marketing ploy insists..)
& it has resurrected my buried soul to see this cactus fence
restore the scraped & raw land with waxy yellowrose blossoms this past spring.
We don’t scream, we don’t fight-
just fevered reading half the night..

Before the mall, before the orchards,
Many native plants here produce seeds,(I read in sweating bedsheets),
before the rails, before the tools even, were the fires;
that will only sprout when exposed to the high temperatures created
It was brown skin that lived in the valle these past hundreds of years-
Kumeyaay & descendants of ancient ones far south of here,
by extreme summer heat in combination with
and it will be brown-skin spirit that survives here long after the fiercest Santa Ana’s
have relentlessly burned these guarded acres of Yanqui commerce & investment..
uncontained, cyclical open-range conflagration.

..and arbutifolia once again covers this wounded land
from LaJolla to the San Gabriels,
to the high desert beyond.