John Olivares Espinoza

The Day Before Fall on Palo Verde Drive

My brothers and I cool off in the yard

Of our new home with hoses and spray bottles—

Our faces filled with laughter and clear skies.

Two older boys on a motorbike take a spin around the block. 

Their middle fingers in the air

Cut through the afternoon like car antennas.

They park their bikes on our front yard

And with reasons only bullies know,

Approach my older brother and say,

“Come here, we want to show you something.”

Their walks heavy with boots and meanness.

Frightened, my brother jogs backward

Toward a vacant lot of creosote.

They grin at us like they didn’t mean business:

Their teeth gray as curbstones.

The sun yells its loudest before dusk.

The leaves brown like our arms and necks.

The scent of Mom’s potatoes swirl with the blackbirds,

Winged witnesses watching us from the phone lines. 

Somewhere miles away,

Dad hoses grass clippings off driveways

And leaves a track of wet boot prints

For his tired shadow to follow.  Somewhere else,

The first girl I have fallen in love with in that polluted city

Recites the times table in her kitchen, while

Rolling tortilla flour into one imperfect moon after another.

The gap between my molars tastes like salt water.

As the earthworms belly their way back

Into the pores of mud, the world darkens.

Who will save my brother?

Mother, a kitchen knife in her hand,

Waves away the boys off the yard.

The blade and its broad reflection

Are enough to drink the last summer day of 1986

And all its sunlight with a great metallic thirst.




“The Day Before Fall on Palo Verde Drive” first appeared in Aluminum Times (Davis: Swan Scythe Press, 2002).