Before, being bald & brown badged me a ‘banger: black pants w/X color
shirt & head shaved short branded me in X gang, even if they hang in
a ‘hood not my own, I still got thrown on a cop car’s hood & trunk,
punched in mouth for being in a marked car cruising down the wrong streets.
Now being brown & bearded, boarding trains w/a backpack bursting at the seams w/books,
I receive suspect looks from cops patrolling w/bomb-sniffing dogs
as if I should be muzzled & leashed like their animals-- collared & crated in the dark,
taught how to sit & lie down & beg for treats, only set free when I learn
not to bite back & snap my jaw at the hand petting my head.
after Eileen Myles
I grew a beard to stop being cast a gangster w/goatees or mustaches thick & dark to match the hard stares they carry. Can you name a gangster w/a beard? Maybe Rick Ross but he isn’t who he says he is & neither am I. I’m not a gangster. I’m a wizard & I store wisdom in my hair, which means I’m dumb b/c my beard is short & trimmed but still I stroke it like I’m deep in thought, concocting a potion like a poem to give the illusion of wizardry.
Love's the War's on TV
Love, the war’s on TV & nothing else is on. Come watch it w/me.
We’ll use LCD technology to crystalize the bomb. Love, the war’s on TV.
Tonight it’s for all to see like a movie marathon. Come watch it w/me.
No need to be PG, all the kids are gone. Love, the war’s on TV.
Forget about sleep; we’ll stay up until dawn. Come watch it w/me.
We’ll count every casualty w/crosses on the lawn. Love, the war’s on TV, come watch it w/me.
-- Jacob Saenz has been a recipient of a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and a Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship. He currently serves as an associate editor for RHINO and works at a library in Chicago.