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The Date Fruit Elegies

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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  16 ratings  ·  4 reviews
Poetry. Latino/Latina Studies. In his first full-length collection of poetry, award-winning poet John Olivares Espinoza defies the common portrayal of the typical Southern Californian and depicts a much harsher yet deeply touching reality for one working class family that struggles to make ends meet and save for the children's education. These poems elegantly yet accessibl ...more
Paperback, 78 pages
Published December 30th 2008 by Bilingual Review Press (AZ) (first published December 3rd 2008)
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Caroline
I like how varied these poems are, both in sentiment and in style (lyrics, narratives, prose poems)

A segment from "Black Hair Lying on a White Pillow"-- nice movement from somber--> dark humor--> deeply touching (within two stanzas!):

"Before I'm forgotten over the weekend. I would be remembered
at a half-time memorial:
football players holding their helmets over their hearts,
cheerleaders holding my freshman photo over theirs--
finally my face between their cleavage.

At my funeral
my grandfat
...more
hannah
This collection is saturated with vivid images that I just loved. The poems felt real, autobiographical, close, and tender. They were obviously personal but you can still enter into them and be a part of the story. I had more to say, but I feel like a review of such a great book has to be more eloquent than I can do right now. Excellent is a good word to end on. Read this book; it's excellent.

My favorites:
-Contemporary American Hunger
-Las Cucarachas
-Love Simple
-One Headlight and a Windshield Mos
...more
Tonya
Nov 09, 2014 Tonya marked it as to-read
Went to a reading of his and liked his down-to-earth poetry. His poetry may not always have a lot of rhythm, but most end on a powerful note. Most of the poems are biographical and center on family which I found at times made them easier to relate to. Espinoza himself has a great sense of humor that at times outshined his work!
Trey
Feb 15, 2010 Trey added it
I found this book hard worked and hard earned. Most of the poems are generated from the memories of growing up and much of the emotional subject matter is worked out by embracing a firm sense of his identity. I look forward to John's future work.
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Born and raised in Indio, California by Mexican parents, John Olivares Espinoza derives his poetic subjects from the population and landscape of Southern California's Coachella Valley. Having studied creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (BA) and Arizona State University (MFA), Espinoza is the author of THE DATE FRUIT ELEGIES (Bilingual Press, 2008) and two previous chapbooks ...more
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“What first comes across our minds
About the stocky Mexican

Pushing a mower across the lawn
At 7 a.m. on a Saturday

As the roar of the cutter wakes us?
Let me take a guess.

Why do they have to come so damn early?
What do we make of his flannel

Shirt missing buttons at the cuffs,
Threadbare at the shoulders,

The grass stains around his knees,
The dirt like roadmaps to nowhere,

Between the wrinkles of his neck?
Let me take a shot. Dirty Mexican.

Would his appearance lead us to believe
He is a border jumper or wetback

Who hits the bar top with an empty shot glass
For the twelfth time then goes home

To kick his wife around like fallen grapefruit
Lying on the ground?

First, the stocky Mexican isn’t mowing the lawn
At 7 a.m. on a Saturday.

He doesn’t work weekends anymore ever since
He lost one-third of his route

To laborers willing to work for next to nothing.
Second, he knows better than to kneel

On the wet grass because, well, the knees
Of his pants will become grass-stained

And pants don’t grow on trees, even here,
Close to Palm Springs.

Instead, after 25 years of the same blue collar work,
Two sons out and one going to college,

Rather than jail, and a small but modest savings
In case he loses the remaining two-thirds

Of his work—no matter how small and reluctantly
The checks come in the mail—

My father the stocky gardener believes
He firmly holds his life

In both his hands like pruning shears,
Chopping branches and blossoms,

Never looking downward as they fall to his feet
In pieces like the American dream.”
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