Jacob Saenz

Lalo Rots



He was an Angel who preferred to swim

during hot summer days on Earth where

he hung out at the pool wearing baggy trunks

that sunk below his waistline when wet,

offering a brush of puberty in bloom.


He could not hide the wings bursting

from his back in feathers of white

& royal blue—the colors of Latin Angels

everywhere. Sometimes he would let

little kids pluck a quill & they would kill

each other w/laughter in tickle fights.


Outside the pool, he cruised

the streets w/his boys in a lowrider

that bumped & humped the roads

in a hydraulic, hypnotic rhythm

in sync to beats of gangsta rap blasting

from speakers rattling inside the trunk.


He loved the skunky smell of hydro-

ponic weed leaking from windows

rolled down a crack to trap in

the smoke his boys coughed up.

He said Angel Dust is just a name

& nothing like the drugs found in Heaven—

real primo shit to bleed your eyes out.


A King w/a crooked gold crown drove by

the pool in a car riding low to the ground

from the wear & tear of terrorizing

hoods not yet under his rule.

The King wanted to see a true Angel

take flight. He loaded up his car

w/pawns & guns & circled the block

twice before he unleashed a hail of words

claiming the hood his own while his boys

in the backseat slung bullets like arrows.


The Angel took a shot in the chest

& his flesh let loose a fury of blood

that oozed into the pool—a deep

red ink no chlorine could clean.


The Angel’s boys vowed revenge

& warred w/the King who eluded

their bullets, their words, their intents

to topple his castle guarded by boys

who marked every hood & block

in black & gold colors w/spray paint

hissing Lalo’s name onto garage doors

& walls for all to see there is no rest

for the dead, only decomposition,

the withering away of wings.

The Woman I Love



The woman I love I no longer love

but still say it because that’s what poets do.

The woman I love now loves a man who was a friend

who she’s now set to wed in a vedas over several days.

He once knocked on the door of a room

where I was fucking the woman I love.

We were in a cabin in the woods of the Upper

Peninsula, which would’ve been romantic except

we were on a dirty bathroom floor making up

after a fight, after I kept drinking shots of tequila

despite her protests, after I smacked my face

in disgrace, after she cried, after I cried, then

we kissed & fucked w/our pants clinging

to our ankles. When he knocked, she coughed

& made pretend puke sounds, said we were fine

but we weren’t. That night she went to bed early

& I continued to drink by a fire pit under so many stars

& satellites, passing a bottle to the man who will wed

the woman I love. That night I fell into the embers

of a fire pit & singed my elbow. The burn mark took the shape

of the smile, or frown, of the woman I love

depending on the angle. That night I began cleaning

the fridge, wiping down its door w/a paper towel.

I don’t remember this but the man who is set to wed

the woman I love filmed my drunken state doing so.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I kept saying in tears

as I wiped down the refrigerator door while he laughed

& laughed & the woman I love stayed sound asleep.

Hoops in Red Wing



The court I use for hoops

is concrete & near bluffs

by a dirt trail & the Charlson

Crest Water Treatment Facility.


There are no bleachers,

no shiny floors to squeak

sneakers on loud like a pro—

only the echoes of the ball


bouncing off the walls

at Burnside Elementary

& the clang of shots sunk

through the chain netting.


All I see are birds free-

wheeling above the field,

white & yellow-feathered,

shrilling the open air


as I soar & glide

guiding the ball off

my fingers into a shot

that goes on no scoreboard.


JACOB SAENZ is a CantoMundo Fellow whose poetry has been published in Poetry, TriQuarterly, Great River Review and other journals. He has been recipient of a Letras Latinas Residency and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. He currently serves as an associate editor for RHINO and works at a library in Chicago.