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.