This Side of Early

Trade Paper – $13.95

ISBN 978-1-931896-46-7
Publication Date
October 2008
Page Count
90 pages
Trim Size
5.5 x 8.5

This Side of Early

Naomi Ayala

Naomi Ayala’s poems explore wide-ranging themes in an ever-changing landscape—from the city streets to the introspective solace of the woods. These lyrics deconstruct the political world of man, offer hope through a compelling, lyrical, spiritual intimacy, and bridge the gap between the two with words full of ecological intensity. Her deep connections with the working class combine with a love of the land to offer us lilt and dream, revelation and foretelling.

One morning
they dig up the sidewalk and leave.
No sign of the truck—only the large,
dark shadow digging and digging,
piling up sludge with a hand shovel
beside the only tree.
Two o’clock I come by
and he’s slumbering in the grass beside rat holes.
Three and he’s stretched across a jagged stonewall,
folded hands tucked beneath one ear—
a beautiful young boy smiling,
not the heavy, large shadow who can’t breathe.
Four-thirty and the August heat
takes one down here.
He’s pulled up an elbow joint
some three feet round.
At seven I head home for the night,
pass the fresh gravel mound,
a soft footprint near the manhole
like the “x” abuelo would place beside his name
all the years he couldn’t write.  

About the Author

Born in Puerto Rico, Naomi Ayala moved to the United States in her teens, eventually earning an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars. Writing in both Spanish and English, she is the author of three poetry collections: Wild Animals on the Moon (1997), This Side of Early (2008), and Calling Home: Praise Songs and Incantations (2013). She lives in Washington, DC, where she teaches poetry and memoir to English-language learners at the Carlos Rosario School as a founding teacher of the Write Who You Are Program.

"Naomi Ayala's strong, supple poems pull a reader right inside. Haunting secrets scuttle along beneath the rafters of every day—she hears them in the mystery of animals and culture and time, connection and disconnection, and sings their resonant song."

—Naomi Shihab Nye

"In This Side of Early, Naomi Ayala exhibits astonishing range, proving that great poetry is worth waiting for. Like Whitman, Ayala contains multitudes; she is a poet with an ethereal vision of another world, and a woman with a sweet hope for this one: 'Drink from this tree/and ye shall be saved.'"

—Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, author of Red Clay Suite

"A woman simply pondering the nature of the world has never been so entertaining."

The Midwest Book Review