Jerome Sala

The Sentinel at the Door

They were saying
we’re living in the late this,
the late that.

But the this or that
was only getting started.
Sometimes it seemed

it was looking forward
(if it could look)
to going on without us.

“You can’t put up with my
so-called shit?
Go live your so-called life

somewhere else.
See how you like
your new cage.

As for us, we’re on our way.
The end recedes
in the rearview mirror

of our so-called car.”

Unconscious Economy

It is dark behind the bank,
but in front, the ATMs sparkle all night.

When you step inside you breathe money—
then when you walk back out,
you can feel money make money


in its sleep. Of course, money never sleeps—
its wire highway ships numerals day and night.

But we are human; it is money.
For us to communicate, we need to pretend
we speak the same language.

Money is nice. It is compassionate.
It knows it is smarter than us
but doesn’t want to hurt our feelings.

It says hello when we feed our card into its mouth.
It says thank you and goodbye when we are done with our business.
It knows it is never done with us or we it.

In back of the bank, the street is dark.
On some nights, you think you hear money sleepwalking.

This is your way of saying hi to yourself.
Money knows this.
Money works hard to hold up a mirror.

Near History

The air conditioner blows
a wave of streamers
through the air
in the electronics store.
Except the streamers
are tied to its vents— you could say the machine
is venting, and this is good.
You wouldn’t want angry machines
taking over the floor.
They are fine in their place complaining—it’s what
we pay them for.

The Game

Those game shows
where they ask contestants to guess
what 200 married women said
200 single men
what America said —
they train us
to market wares
to write “content” that sells
to an imagined crowd.

The rest don’t count
because never counted.
In some Arcadia the unaddressed
with all their clothes still on.
No one knows them —
the mark of Cain
that they carry
is invisible.

Is it on their foreheads, formless?
On their chests?
Is it an armor that protects?

Maybe it’s for the best.
Maybe it’s what allows them
to keep their money, their peace,
without getting fleeced.

Jerome Sala’s books include Corporations Are People, Too! (NYQ Books), The Cheapskates (Lunar Chandelier), Look Slimmer Instantly (Soft Skull Press) and the forthcoming How Much? New and Selected Poems (NYQ Books). His poems and essays have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions, Pleiades, Boundary 2, Rolling Stone, The Best American Poetry series and many others. He lives in New York City, with his wife, poet Elaine Equi. His blog—on poetry, pop culture and everyday life, is espresso bongo