Jacob Saenz


Mother’s first job consisted of dusting
& cleaning downtown offices of men
in starched suits while she & her sister
wore uniforms slightly stained & frayed

They wiped down phones & fax machines
w/worn rags, sucked up dirt on shag rugs
using Hoover vacuum cleaners w/cords
coiling on floors like slim, limp pythons

Sometimes when changing out garbage bags
they’d find tossed out food not found
in the pantry at home where shelves held
bags of beans & rice, potatoes & tortillas

They tired of eating the same meal night
after night while their mother knitted by
the light, her mind wrapped in the pattern
of chatter, of voices never ceasing to talk

In trash bins they discovered ruby red
apples almost whole, half-eaten sandwiches
made w/turkey & cheese, a slice of uneaten
pecan pie like a carnival prize they’d pick out

to share back & forth bites of a secret
sweet treat as they sat swiveling
in cushioned chairs & kicked
their feet up on freshly dusted desks

for Jesse Silva

My cousin’s crutches lean
against the white wall
as we clutch GI Joes
while lying on the floor

I hold Snake Eyes
the silent commando
skilled in swordplay
& hand-to-hand combat

He clasps Storm Shadow
a Cobra-controlled ninja warrior
lethal w/a long bow & arrow
& clad head-to-toe in white

like the cast on cousin’s foot
except for Sharpie scrawls
of a rabbit’s head w/one bent ear
& the words Two-Six Nation

I’m twelve & don’t yet know
the bunny head beyond the logo
of magazines in my brother’s closet
nor the significance of 26th street

My cousin’s sixteen & won’t say much
about gangs & guns or running away
from shots that killed his best friend
& the bullet bound into his bones

We focus on play & make
our soldiers clink swords
& bang plastic limb on limb
We grip our toys like pistols


Crown you in my heart
king of sorrow
your kisses ring
hit me like a slow bullet
I know the end before the story’s been told
& it hurts like brand new shoes

Jacob Saenz is the author of Throwing the Crown, winner of the 2018 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. His poetry has appeared in Memorious, PANK, Poetry, Tammy and other journals. A CantoMundo fellow, he’s been the recipient of a Letras Latinas Residency, a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and a 2019 Latinx Scholarship from the Frost Place. He serves as as editor for RHINO.