Yaccaira Salvatierra


Yaccaira Salvatierra is a native Californian having lived in various cities from the San Diego/Tijuana border to the magical town of Arcata. She is inspired by people’s stories and a city’s movement. Her BA is in Latin American and Latino Studies from UC Santa Cruz and she has an MA in Education from San José State University where she is currently working on an MFA in poetry.  She is a teacher and lives with her two sons in San José.

2 Poems


I can almost smell the fresh

black spray-paint blossoming

crooked words overnight

outside Tuyet Tram’s Hair and Nail Salon

and across overpasses along the 101 

like the once-blossoming

rows of prune trees

ruffling highway shoulders.

Había una vez, perdiéndose

más en la historia—

once upon a time, getting lost

further into history—

my grandfather would always begin,

my legs followed my arms picking fruit

from eight different orchards

one for each daughter  

waiting in our small town of Jalisco,

waiting for a quinceñera.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

I never wanted a quinceñera, but once,

outside of my high school’s auditorium,

I almost held a can of spray-paint

the color of California poppies

high above my head to paint,

Había una vez.


Luciérnaga, firefly, I didn’t believe you existed,

but there you were dancing in your radiance

along a damp Mexican path far from the city’s glow.

You were followed by a few others

flickering in and in like tips of fire;

you took them along the man-made trail

walled with dry bush and cacti;

you led them into an opening

among the thorned-arms of the maguey

as a deepening purple sky

slowly swallowed dawn’s dim light. 

I traveled behind you as far as I could,

but that was the last I saw of you.

Back in the city full of streets

intersecting like tangled rope and knotted ends;

sidewalk drainages clogged up

with plastic, cigarette butts, and fast-food debris;

and homesick souls separated

by copper, glass, and concrete walls,

I could not shake you from my memory.

At night, I imagined you

in streetlights, lampposts, and brake lights

working long hours on little food, little rest,

and no time for those you traveled with.

When I got home one evening,

I turned on the living room lamp

and inside the light bulb I could hear

a slight buzzing voice. It asked me to come close. 

It told me about the larvae it left behind 

and the yearning for the smooth branches and the green.

I listened to the laughter and songs of its youth,

and its grandfathers’ advice: ten fe, have faith. 

I asked if it knew of a group of luciérnagas

from a pueblo in México. A small group had gone north

to a highway construction site in need of thousands

of luciérnagas to illuminate the night.

I was about to ask for the town’s name,

but then the light burned out

and I heard a sound like tiny metal

hit the bottom of glass.