20 February 2010

Featured Poet: Jacob Saenz

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