Poetry Review, Julia Alvarez, “Homecoming”

20 May

In “Homecoming” Julia Alvarez talks about her experience at a family wedding in the Dominican Republic.  The whole poem reads like a whirl of magical and disturbing facts–her cousin’s family spent a huge amount of money to do the simplest things, like wade in the river which required an armor truck and the river to have been cleaned (and that’s just the beginning)–she was trying to impress “a bewildered group of sumburnt Minnesotans,”  her husband’s people.  So we’ve got the bizarre huge wedding that is made to impress some Americans run by a group of invisible servants to do the work.

In the meantime she is forced to hang out with her uncle who is disturbingly flirtatious and more than a little tipsy.  He offers her the whole place (I’m guessing in marriage, though who knows.)  She realizes looking back later that she did not notice the servants, that she had to be re-educated to do that, or at least to understand how she is blind to them.  “It was too late, or early, to be wise.”

The whole house is made of sugarcane, cut by the servants–also notably the servants are locked out of the festivities.  They serve, they make it happen, but they sit on the back stairs eating out of their hands.  She has a vision that the fields were burning, though she did not understand it at the time, she saw the possibility of revolt sometime in the future.

The series of images relating to Tio’s wanton spending compared to the poverty of the servants is the biggest tension in this poem–monogrammed wedding bells, a dancefloor covered in talc, chinese lanterns, a marzipan cake that looked exactly like the family ranch, champagne kept semi-cold over blocks of ice, every image of a thing is unnatural and overdone–even the image of the groom melting into the frosting is apt, because this celebration is not really about him (notice how he’s barely mentioned through the whole poem).  At the end, Alverez states that the whole house, and the whole wedding were really from the sweat of the servants who have nothing.

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One Response to “Poetry Review, Julia Alvarez, “Homecoming””

  1. mia May 1, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    this poem it really good. i like to read every day and night.

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