By bringing us pear blossoms and knife blades, smells of salt and poison,
Dominguez weaves an artful web out of the opposites that hold us together.
History, both personal and communal, comes alive in the best way, here:
through our bodies. As easily as we feel sprinkler water puddle under our
toes, we also join Dominguez in the less sublime, but more poignantly
human condition of gluttony (a box of Cheez-Its in one sitting—how
often do you get to experience that guilty pleasure in a poem?). Even
in encouraging his students to dream beyond the packinghouse, he
foregrounds the physical: “Give them queso ranchero, and then, tell them
to share their words.” Read and savor these poems; join Dominguez
“eating figs from the garden” on his backyard patio for a plática poética—
and finish fulfilled by the many ways his lively, compassionate narrations
both awaken and placate new hungers.
“Gather them, my friend, the way a spirit gathers the scent of orange
blossoms.” The friend in question is the late Chicano poet Andrés
Montoya. In other words, these poems are unapologetically rooted in
California’s Central Valley where “watermelon [is] sprinkled with chili
powder,” where by the end of one poem, the speaker is “leaves dripping
into a basin brimming with hose water /…sound rising up and touching
the stars.” And yet in another piece, the speaker is “throw[ing] pizza
boxes like Frisbees / across the family room floor.” That is: although
David Dominguez is a poet wedded to craft and specificity (and therefore
a solid poet indeed), The Ghost of César Chávez is rightly wedded to life,
which is why I enjoyed it so much. It’s a book I’ll buy to give away.