By Jacob Saenz Jacob Saenz
My brother wore bags over his boots
              to keep the grease & grime from his time
                           at the steel mill off the carpet & steps

he mounted, heaving each foot
              like a monster born of the grave
                           -yard shift — stiff & awkward,

his arms smeared w/dark matter,
              the lather of machine & industry
                            bathing his clothes & face in a glaze

of sweat & smoke, oil & the dirt
              of what’s been done before — the work
                            of uncles & cousins who wore the same

jumpsuit, goggles & gloves to grab hold
              of cold finished bars using their backs
                            & shoulders to move the weight around

w/the help of machines, the knobs
              to control the two-ton bundles
                            held by a buckle above the heads

of hard-hatted men that could snap
              & let loose the mass of all that metal
                            meant to weld into a foundation,

a beginning to build upon
              when it was his time to work,
                            to clock in clean & leave

feeling filthy no matter the shift
              or stiffness in the bones creaking
                            like the wooden stairs he climbed

Source: Poetry (May 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2014
 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, The Body, Activities, Jobs & Working, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Class

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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