Orginal Publication Date
Explorations in Sights and Sounds
California's fertile San Joaquin Valley is the setting of this first published collection of poems by one of Chicano literature's leading voices [other books include The Tale of Sunlight (1978), Father Is a Pillow Tied to a Broom (1980), Where Sparrows Work Hard (1981), and Black Hair (1985)]. Thirty-eight poems comprise the three sections which take the reader through a series of disturbing images of the region. (Critic Bruce-Novoa has compared Elements with T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land). In the first poem, " San Fernando Road," migrants are described in the language of travail as men " Whose arms/Were bracelets/Of burns/ And whose families/Were a pain/They could not/Shrug off." The odyssey ends with "Braly Street" where the past and the present come together in bleak images as the poetic voice views the empty lot where his home once stood: "When I come/To where our house was,/I come to seeds/And a sewer line tied off/Like an umbilical cord." Generative images of home and seeds are in unsettling discord with the metaphor of a sewer line as umbilicus. Other poems deal with rape, drowning babies, drunkenness, drugs, mental illness, hunger, and death.
Copyright, ©EES, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1989