A Jehovah's Witness is stabbed in her home by a stranger she once allowed in. A homeless woman masturbates on a park bench. A statue of the Virgin Mary, ""plaster receptacle of petitions and foolish pleas,"" is found in a dump, a missing hand suggesting the sound of a one-handed rosary. Through images brutally honest and disarmingly off-center, Dixie Salazar explores the hidden lives of everyday people, objects, and experiences and their transformation in the hidden realms of the heart. Charting furious descents into the darkest crevices of our souls, Salazar paints for us a lost city that exists below our mundane consciousness. Blood Mysteries is a tribute to lost souls, from a suicidal mental patient who doesn't believe she exists ""melting out of a landscape spotted with shadows, washing her hands in an empty basin of light"" to Marilyn Monroe, victim even in the morgue. In finely tuned lyricism showing an uncanny grasp of frayed lives, she gives flesh and vitality to women normally encountered only as statistics. The incarcerated, the homeless, the hopeless. Missing young girls who turn up violated and murdered. Salazar presents us with blood mysteries not only of women, but of family as well. In poems invoking her dual heritage, she explores the identity crises brought on by having a Spanish father and a mother from the deep South, leaving her a product of American meltdown with a predisposition to check ""other"" for race on applications. ""Other can be a place,"" she reminds us, ""a residence for those of us without / papers, where halos of lightning bugs / swarm the rickety family tree."" Salazar writes with toughness and grit ""for all the shipwrecked saints / and wretches among us."" But beneath the surface of words sometimes gritty, sometimes playful, lies a testament to the power of empathy, giving voice to those whose voices have been stifled and offering hope for those who have found none. Blood Mysteries is a forceful prayer for the disenfranchised that offers not merely hope, but transcendence.
Dixie Salazar has published three books of poetry: Hotel Fresno, Reincarnation of the Commonplace (winner of the National Poetry Book Award), and Blood Mysteries (Arizona, 2003). She has also published a novel, Limbo, along with numerous poems and short stories in more than fifty literary journals, including The Missouri Review, Poetry International, and Ploughshares. Currently she shows oil paintings and collage work at the Silva/Salazar studios in Fresno. She has taught at California State University, Fresno, as well as in the California prisons and the Fresno County jail.