Who is Miguel Diaz?
Miguel Diaz is part of the legend and lore of Temecula’s history. Most of us have heard the story recited about the Vail Ranch cowboy, who in a moment of bad judgment, decided to rob the Temecula Na-tional Bank for money to take flying lessons. Only to be quickly caught after a chase by locals, one of whom still had shaving cream on his face due to an interrupted session at the local barber shop. In the October 2016 issue of this newsletter, Rebecca Farnbach wrote in an article “Sometimes there is more . . . “ — about the incredi-ble and circuitous journey of a copy of a poem written by Miguel Diaz #48933, while in San Quentin. It turns out that Miguel had a clear love and appreciation for the desert, and wrote a lengthy poem about his feelings and observations of “The Desert”. As part of that previous story, a few lines of his poem were printed. It now seems appropriate to reproduce the piece in it’s entirety in this issue.
The desert (a poem)
I have learned to love the desert, with its dry and battered face,
With its mystery’s and its silence, it’s vast and open space.
Its gold and purple sunsets, are my life’s one great despair –
To write on printed paper the scenes I have seen there.
Though I’ve thirsted, and I’ve sweated on your burning shifting sands,
And we fought you to a showdown, with my own hard fighting hands.
Though you’ve choked me with your dust, you taught me to be game,
Though you’ve burnt me to a cinder, I love you just the same.
They talk about your death grip that it’s worse than any hell;
Cause they can’s steal all your beauty, and your jewels they cannot sell,
For the jewels that you have hidden upon your noble breast;
Some men would give a fortune for your silence and your rest.
For the pictures you have painted and scattered round you bout,
And the gold that you have hidden in your bosom strong and stout.
For the secret of the treasures that they know in you abide;
Old scarred and riven desert men have gamely fought and died.
I have seen you scorched and barren, not a living thing in sight,
And I’ve seen you dressed in springtime, with flowers sweet and bright.
I have eaten of the fruit that grows upon you fair,
And I’ve filled my lungs to busting with your perfumed fragrant air.
I’ve watched you in your glory at the first grey streaks of dawn,
Roll out like distant thunder across the crimson morn.
And the silence seems so dense you can cut it with a knife,
Until the golden sun appears to waken all to life.
Where the dampness of the night forms into drops of dew,
And a million sparkling diamonds are awaiting there for you.
Old scarred and riven desert you have got me in your grip,
From your golden cup of treasures, I want in peace to sip.
For you’ve drugged me with your beauty, your simplicity so grand,
Your blue skies always smiling, old sage of “No man’s Land.”
But to know your riches truly man must sweat upon your face,
He must meet you with his bare hands to hold an honored place.
Tis the fight and bitter struggles that gamely hold me there,
Through which I see your beauty, and your castles in the air.
I’ve seen those distant cities no fairer to behold.
All built with pure white marble and tipped with burnished gold.
I’ve watched them in the sunshine when at first they did arise,
Until the purple mantle erased them from the skies.
I have seen upon your surface a lake of turquoise hue,
Filled with mountain waters so refreshing and so blue.
I’ve crawled upon your bosom with my bleeding hands and feet,
Lust to hear its’ rippling music and drink its waters sweet.
But you fooled me old man desert and in its’ place instead,
Was the burning sands of hell, the lake had moved ahead.
It was just another joke that you had to play, I see,
You darned old ornery desert you almost conquered me.
Still I wander o’er the sand dunes and marvel at their graces,
The beauty of their contour the smoothness of their faces.
And how they raise their head so proudly in the air;
While the wind with busy fingers marvels their wavy hair.
How they’re always just a primping a little here and there,
With the heavens for a mirror and a beauty that is rare.
I lay upon your cool face as the purple shadows fall,
And watch the golden sunset on nature’s blue sky wall.
The scenes of God’s own glory and the scenes I love so well,
Each moment a different pattern I despair just how to tell.
Then the sand dunes start to whisper, so murmur and to sing,
Tis the song of burning sands a great and wondrous thing.
When I hear that soft weird music my body starts to thrill,
Tis the music of the heaven sand, the voice of yonder hills.
Seems to me the music’s pleading for something wild and fair,
Perhaps the rugged mountains and the desert’s saying prayer.
Then the mantle of the night spreads its’ blanket thick and deep,
Until the friendly stars through the twilight, start to peep.
Did you ever lay and listen to the stories that they tell,
When the desert was a garden not the burning sands of hell.
When the water ran in ditches like veins across its face,
And a nation thrived in splendor a copper colored race.
With palaces and gardens and fields alive and green,
Where love and sweet contentment with glory reigned supreme.
Where they feasted and made merry and filled the air with song,
And the peels of their laughter arose the whole day long.
Where little children danced midst flowers upon its breast,
And gorgeous birds of song lived happy land of care,
In worshiping the flesh not the Spirit Great and Fair.
Cause in their wine and plenty they forgot there was a God,
And the scene was so appalling that he struck it with his rod.
When you hear the sands a singing ‘tis the echo and the strain,
Of music of a nation that lies buried ‘neath the plain.
So the stars they tell me stories of a world, long long ago,
How a nation lived and perished on the burning sands I know.
And I listen to the mysteries that I’m eager for to hear,
As I wander across the wasteland and the face I love so dear.
You’ve put your brand upon me as only the desert can,
You’ve stole my heart and soul as you have from many a man.
So I’ll watch the sunset’s glory, with the purple shadows blend;
Till I pass beyond the shadows, in the valley, at the end.
(Dedicated to Death Valley and Mojave Desert of California, By Michael Diaz. #48933, San Quentin.)