I Remember Lotería

By Jacob Saenz Jacob Saenz
I remember nights of playing
Lotería w/Mom & Big Manny
as a way to learn the Spanish they spoke
to each other but not to their kids
who caught on to certain words
like cállate, cerveza, chicharrón;
little nuggets I ate up
like the pinto beans we used
instead of the blue chips
Mom kept in her Bingo bag
she carried every Friday night
when her & Tia Shirley
went to the Moose Lodge,
her hair & coat reeking
w/the smoke of all who lost.
I remember El Borracho,
the man always holding a bottle
& about to fall over yet never does
like Big Manny stumbling home
late at night after a payday,
breath & belly full of beer,
who one time took a piss
in our bedroom.

I remember La Garza,
not for the heron it is
but cousin Tony & his kids,
nights of sleepovers & pizza,
PlayStation on a 40-inch TV,
the night he & Lil Jesse sneaked
bumps of coke in the bathroom
& I rubbed numb my teenage teeth.

I remember El Musico,
not the chubby man clutching his guitarra
but my brother Dave loading crates
of records & a dual turntable case
like a coffin into the back of a van,
the same set I hit my back on at ten
when I fell out of the top bunk bed.

But I prefer to remember La Sirena
back when her breasts were free
of the seashells she now holds
to cover them in water so blue
cold, her scales so red,
her name clung to the tongue
like dulce de leche.

This poem first appeared in Great River Review.

Source: Poetry (November 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2012
 Jacob  Saenz


Poet and editor Jacob Saenz was born in Chicago and raised in Cicero, Illinois. He earned a BA in creative writing from Columbia College in Chicago. Saenz has been an editor at Columbia Poetry Review and an associate editor at RHINO. He works as an acquisitions assistant at the Columbia College library and has read his poetry at a number of Chicago venues. A CantoMundo fellow, he has also been the recipient of a Letras Latinas . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Life Choices, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Class, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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