top of page


Gary Soto


The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickle from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all

A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands. 

BIO: Gary Soto was born in Fresno, California, California, in 1952. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including New and Selected Poems (Chronicle Books, 1995), which was a National Book Award finalist; Canto Familiar/Familiar Song (1994); Neighborhood Odes (1992); Home Course in Religion (1991); Who Will Know Us?(1990); Black Hair (1985); Where Sparrows Work Hard (1981); The Tale of Sunlight (1978); and The Elements of San Joaquin (1977). Soto has also written two novels, Poetry Lover (University of New Mexico Press, 2001) and Nickel and Dime (2000); the memoir Living Up the Street (1985), for which he received an American Book Award; numerous young adult and children's books; and edited three anthologies: Pieces of Heart (1993), California Childhood Entrance: Four Latino Poets (1976). His honors include the Andrew Carnegie Medal, the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum, The Nation/"Discovery" Prize, and the Bess Hokin Prize and the Levinson Award from Poetry. He has also received fellowships from the California Arts Council, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in northern California.

bottom of page