By Anna Daniels
Ajo Trabajo is from Laurie Macrae’s chapbook Your Place or Mine? published in San Diego by Geronimo Press. This collection of New Mexico poems conveys specific geographical settings which are often filled with shifting light and unexpected bursts of color. The tonal quality of the poems derives from the poet’s personal connection to the landscape. In some of the poems that connection derives from memory and longing. In Ajo Trabajo that connection is gloriously in the moment.
Jesse Perez’ mother, Elsie, has a field of garlic
between the double-wide and the long row of Tuscan poplars
that her grandfather planted one hundred years ago.
At 7:00 A.M. the field is cool, fragrant, the white-domed flowers
Quiver on long stalks, the dark wall of trees whispers,
and the dogs are still asleep.
We wade into the rows as deep as our thighs
and pull the stalks close to the ground
The earth resists then heaves and breaks
as the tight fist of garlic springs, dirt flying,
into the light
We work quietly at first bent to the task like beetles,
moving slowly down the rows stripping,
building piles, mud caking on our sneakers,
garlic saturating clothes, our skin, our hair, our minds
“Where’s Elsie?” I ask, as garlic warms my arteries,
“She didn’t come home last” sez Jesse,
“At her boyfriend’s in Bernalillo. she’s still got it in her
63 years old,” he shakes his head.
The sun is above the mountain when we finish our work
Our mounds of plants look flowered at both ends.
We stand in the sun glowing like candles in the cathedral of garlic.