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.




“Grass Isn’t Mowed on Weekends” first appeared in Quarterly West, #52, 2001.