by Erika Ayón
120 Pages ~ 80 Poems
Publisher: World Stage Press
To Order from World Stage Press
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Orange Lady is a poetry collection that recounts the experience of
an immigrant growing up in South Central Los Angeles, where her
family sold oranges on the street in order to survive. In adulthood,
Ms. Ayón explores different facets of grief from not belonging in
certain spaces, longing for a country she left long ago, and the
loss of her father. The title itself stems from a moment when she
was young, and a classmate called her, "Orange Lady" in front of the
whole school after seeing her selling oranges. Although that moment
initially caused her immense shame, it later motivated her to become
more than her circumstances. These poems depict a journey that
begins with recollections of being a street vendor to fading
memories of Mexico and South Central Los Angeles, to reflections
about a daughter's relationship with her father. They delve into
issues of poverty, cultural identity, and the many hardships faced
by the immigrant community.
¡°I am astonished by the heartbreaking beauty of Orange Lady, Erika Ay¨®n¡¯s debut collection.
Here is a poetry of survival and betrayal, love and longing on the gritty streets of Los Angeles.
San Pedro and 23rd, Numero Uno Market, Freemont High School are a few of the settings in
which her real-life drama unfolds with cinematic clarity, as in the final stanza of "Each Fall,"
where her father returns with stories from four months working the fields: 'How the strawberries
bleed onto your cut,/blistered hands. How people are plucked/from trees by the immigrant police.
How rows/of men lie down to rest at night with love letters,/photographs planted above their
chests.' Erika Ay¨®n is a poet to be reckoned with.¡±
— Donna Hilbert, Author of Gravity: New and Selected Poems
Erika Ayón's debut collection of poetryOrange Lady is an immigrant testimony of survival and
reislience, of what it means to be in South Central L.A., between San Padro and 23 Street. These
poems record a plea for peace, for a father's and mother's rest, an autobiographical narrative,
where each poem stitched to each other forms a litany of street vendors, cholos, and the
reconstruction of a Mexican family. The orange, sometimes the object of consolation, sometimes
struggle, becomes "the only thing that could compete with the sun," and begins the powerful
journey of what it's like to fall in love with poems. The important voice in the Orange
Lady asks for permission to write, to put thoughts into words, the need to recover everything
once dear, now lost.
—William Archila, Author of The Art of Exile, winner of the International Latino Book Award,
and The Gravedigger's Archaeology, Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize.
Poignant stories told with a clear, beautiful voice. Erika offers such an important perspective.
Especially at this time.
—RuthForman, Author of Prayers Like Shoes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Erika Ayón emigrated from Mexico when she was five years old and
grew up in South Central Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA
with a B.A. in English. She was selected as a 2009 PEN Emerging
Voices Fellow. She was also selected as a poet for the Newer Poet XV
reading, part of the Aloud Series of the Los Angeles Central Library
She has taught poetry to middle and high school students across Los
Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Acentos Review, Chiricú
Journal, Orangelandia Anthology, Wide Awake Anthology, Coiled
Serpent Anthology, and elsewhere.
FROM THE BOOK:
When I Come Back to You
by Erika Ayon
I'll stand there, wait for you to embrace me.
I'll kneel down, so as to know
how it feels to pray under your sky.
I'll drive down your winding roads,
your cobblestone paved streets, follow
the path of your veins spread like highways.
I'll stop in Nayarit, where I first inhaled
your air, pick wild flowers from open fields.
Go to my first home, the green house
with the red tiled roof, hug its concrete frame,
place the gathered flowers within its creases.
I'll go to Las Varas, the last place we met,
to remember your carnival moon,
your cotton candy kisses,
and your sweet roasted corn scent
trapped inside the pores of my skin.
I'll take a trip to my old school,
where paper doves still flutter above.
At the plaza, I'll apologize on behalf
of all those who left and never returned.
I'll slip away to Platanitos Beach,
drink water from your ocean.
On the way back to Los Angeles,
I'll take nothing from you.
I'll cry softly for you.
I'll hope that with this trip
you'll know I still love you,
you'll finally stop being a ghost.