Go on, tell me
My hands look like yours,
Nail clipped, filed, buffed, shined.
They weren’t always so.
My hands were

Forged from
Gardening, working so deep
In the soil, they could have been roots.
Fingers splintered by wooden
Rakes and shovels.

Some gardener—
Whose face and name get lost
Like loose coins in my memory’s
backseat—told me women
Look at men’s hands

For dark half-circles
Between their nails, which give away
Your blue-collar status like a pair of torn jeans.
This is no matter how handsome your face.
I knew I had hope.

But what about
Lupe, whose mower chopped
His fingertips instead of blades of grass,
Who then preserved them in an ice chest
Next to some plums?

So I scrub, clip,
And lotion my hands with aloe,
Fearing bachelorhood and Internet dating.
I take pride in my hands now,
But what about when

The skin gathers at the knuckle,
And arthritis tangles my fingers for
Cracking my knuckles since I was ten?
But until then, hold my hand
Tightly with yours

As my other hand
Wipes the sweat from my brow
Under the perspiration of work and love
And the fact I know no other way
To wrestle out a life for us.

From The Date Fruit Elegies (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by John Olivares Espinoza. Used with the permission of Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.