This We in the Back of the House
Poetry by Jacob Sunderlin
Saturnalia Books, October 2022
Winner of the Saturnalia Book Editors Prize, Jacob Sunderlin’s first book of poems is measured in long shifts, out of sight of customers, written out in bleach, cigarette butts, and cheers to that we who work in the back of the house. Poems written the way stock pots are scoured with steel wool, the way bricks are laid with violent precision and exhausted resignation. These poems were dreamed by a head stuck inside a cement mixer, drunk on the language of work and the spoken we language creates. This is not the romanticized imaginary “Midwest” exploited by cynical politicians but a lyrical and even occult working-class landscape. Its we is made gentle by listening, by being in garages with apple-juice jugs of antifreeze underneath a sky hazed by contrails in the shape of Randy Savage and bootlegged diamonds of anti-helicopter lights while Appetite for Destruction whispers from a pile of burning leaves. This we is made of brothers, of the teenage bricklayer scamming free nuggets from Mickey Dees. These poems are sharp but loving, spoken in the light of a Coleman lantern from a boombox spread out on a blanket down by a river Monsanto owns. This we rides in a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air left parked out in a shed, windows half-down.