Bookmark Found in The Works of Walt Whitman
As usual my brother & I are glass-eyed & smiles,
talking about our desire to stop smoking pot
when I decide to pull the book off its shelf.
Before I hand it over I brush some dust
off Whitman’s hat & beard like ash,
finger through pages & find a bookmark
care of the American Cancer Society.
“How appropriate,” I say when I give it to him.
He sees the picture of girl’s face
with cheeks round as apples, eyes dark as tar
looking for a cure for cancer.
The caption under her face reads
Best Tip: Don’t Start.
He laughs, accidentally loses his hit, flips
the bookmark over & reads the fact
that smoking kills more people every year
than car crashes, AIDS, & bloody murders combined.
“If that ain’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is,”
he says as he tightly packs another bowl,
takes a deep puff & exhales
like an ancient dragon’s last breath.
within the lair
the wire the buzz of the joy-
stick in hand winds the heart
to heroic to strike first & hard
with fist or paw
nail or claw into the scaly
sleeping beast on its bed
of gold that glint off our swords
& blind us briefly
unlike those bones piled
high in corners clutching
rubies like hearts our champions
hunt the heads that hide
within the lair the dark behind
sharp teeth of greed & the grip
of a shard of power a share of
a legacy hard to let go of
[the train rumbles]
the train rumbles
as if on a road eroded
w/potholes & sewer tops
not paved even & smooth
the swerve of curves & bumps
lumps our bodies together
packed from front to back
over tracks cracked & rusted
the rush to get home trusted
to rails too old to hold the weight
of our bodies as we wait to move
beyond this standstill & will
the pols to find the funds
to keep fares fair enough
for families just trying
to make it home
Memorial Day at Coney Island
The beach is littered w/towels
& toys, girls & boys screaming
in the water & the lifeguard
whistling at those too far out.
The Marines pull up in a Hummer
(red like blood that’s shed)
& in fatigues & boots they set up
a booth to test & challenge the youth
to pull-ups: a build up of the corps
in front of a crowd chanting
numbers as one shirtless teen
struggles to reach twenty.
On the pier we sit near rows
of fishing rods that lean on rails
& the men who wait for a jerk
to work the reel & pull in a good
catch: a fish that flops on the wood
wet & white & silver in sunlight,
a fish that sells on the sly
wrapped in a black plastic bag.
The crabs caught get their legs
torn off by bare brown hands
that crack open their casing easy
as eggs so the meat shines through
the muddy shell & the steel cage
they’re placed in as we watch
& taste the two dollar beer
we bought out of a backpack,
a savings of a few bucks
from the cups sold on the walk
& just as cold to chill the sun
beating & burning our backs.
Jacob Saenz is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago where he served as an editor for the Columbia Poetry Review. His work has appeared in RHINO, Inkstains, Buffalo Carp, Paramanu Pentaquark and Poetry. He has been nominated for an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. He works at a library.
© Copyright 2010 Jacob Saenz