“Small Town with One Road” is a short poem in free verse, its thirty-three lines forming one stanza. The title suggests a quiet poem, and it is, presenting a reflective commentary on life within the valley as compared with a life beyond. The poem is written in the first person. The speaker is a father, and he and his daughter are contemplating their view of the valley, but the speaker is primarily addressing the reader.
The first section of the poem is primarily descriptive, as Soto depicts the lives of Mexican American farm workers and their families in a hot, dry valley in central California. A road of black asphalt runs through the valley, a road that Soto later uses symbolically as a dividing line between the hard life in the valley and life beyond. “Kids could make it” across, he says, literally meaning that they could “leap barefoot” to the little store where they buy candy and snowcones. Before describing what could be considered the children’s bleak future, Soto reminds the reader that these children are like all children, eager to taste the sweetness of candy on their tongues. The lives of the children in the valley include “a dog for each hand,/ Cats, chickens in the yard.” At home, the children hear cooking in the kitchen and know they will be having beans for dinner, as they usually do: “Brown soup that’s muscle for field work.” The universality of the life of manual labor is underscored by the next two lines, “Okie...
(The entire section is 457 words.)