Senior Andrew Triska's Academy of American Poets Award-Winning Poem

King Saul at the Woolworth’s

It was the bubble gum I was after. At times
I crave sweets. I am old and at this stage in my life
there is no harm in it. A cardboard cutout of Bazooka Joe
stood in the middle of the aisle, boasting of luscious lemon.

The edge of my robe brushed the display,
sending several packs of gum to the ground.
Bazooka Joe stared blankly in disapproval
and the old women in the candy aisle rolled their eyes.

I picked up two packages of Galactic Grape.
and pocketed them, glancing around.
The Woolworth’s smelled of fine Turkish tobacco
and the fluorescent lights buzzed with hope.

I wondered how Joe had lost his eye. The boy’s pallor
spoke of defeat. I stroked my beard, restless.
It is a dangerous thing for an old man to be restless.
I don’t believe in fortune-telling, but perhaps it was an omen.

I stared deeper into Joe’s good eye. Nothing good
stared back. Panicking, I turned and stumbled toward the door,
hand at my sword, ready to take on all comers. I ran
straight into the security guard. He looked at me

as one might look at a leper. Or a man who runs into strangers.
I had failed to conquer the Woolworth’s and it showed.
Dazed, I walked to Dolores Park, blinking in the early sunlight,
reminding myself that not all men remember that man’s law

is not God’s law. I fed the ducks but my heart wasn’t in it.
Dogs nipped at my robes, playfully. I offered them beef jerky
and my humiliation subsided in the quiet manner in which
nature carries forward the day.

In the street, a little boy asked me for some of the M&Ms
that I was eating. Certainly, I said, but listen well.
If the day should come when you are captured, take the opportunity
to assess the situation. Sometimes when things go wrong you simply

add things up and figure out there’s nothing left to fix.
You may have already figured out that we are still paying
for the things that we were given at the birth of the world.
His mother gave me a tight smile, then hurried him away.