John Olivares Espinoza

Grass Isn’t Mowed on Weekends

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.

John Olivares Espinoza
Grass Isn’t Mowed on Weekends first appeared in Quarterly West, #52, 2001.