Cracker Jack
by James Penha

Jack is who he used to be but irised now
on boxes he’s lost the bell of his bottoms
and those strappy Mary Janes fit more for
gender-bending Buster Brown than a Sailor
hawking snacks. (I was terrified of Buster
living in my shoe under my heel or even
in my closet with his tough-guy dog Tige.
No.) I wanted Jack and Bingo his pup
looking in my youth a lot like a Little
Rascal ready to lick. My own dog Rocky
begged for Cracker Jack—the more he ate,
the more he wanted—and I was happy
to oblige cause really I had no use for
caramel popcorn. Rocky had it all in a pile
on the floor as I emptied the package
in search of the little envelope promising
Surprise! Inside! a tiny deck of cards or
an ID tag or a cowboy on horseback or
an actual counterfeit coin or a monkey or
a skull or a ball-in-the-hole game or
a pencil topper or a pad of stickies or
a plastic Bingo or a little framed photo
of Sailor Jack himself. Oh, how sweet
in those days was every charm and treasure.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.