Back to Issue Thirty-Three

Salvation Sonnet


Almost sweetly the judge gaveled away my summer,
knocking her desk lightly like a quiet neighbor’s door.

I worked three hundred hours at a Salvation Army—
their motto Blood and Fire. Our small misfit militia,

teenagers unearthing ourselves from the stacks
of stuff left behind, piecemeal Lego sets, doll houses

with missing balconies. Some people would donate
anything for a write-off: prosthetic limbs, uncle’s ashes

mistaken for a daisy vase, countless dildos, dildoes, dildi.
I learned the Spanish word—consolador, from to console.

We took fishing pictures with the biggest and brightest,
threw them in a box we hid from management like a pile

of armless crosses. When I cup my ear towards that
summer, I can sometimes hear them shiver back to life.



What I Hate Most About Mom


is her dying. How these days
I’m busy reckoning

how to make a family
from just one man.

I see death everywhere.
A banana peel left

to the sun is a bat’s
cadaver. The accent mark

in every beautiful Spanish
word—la poesía—is a switch

-blade at the belly.
I can look at the knot

in a piece of wood
until it frightens me.

It’s November now,
all the leaves are curled

with drought. I lied
before. What I hate

most about my dying
mother is that she

won’t eat garlic.
In these final weeks

I try to impress her
with my cooking. She turns

each meal she won’t eat
into a rhymed couplet—

When I meet death,
I won’t have bad breath.

I’m still learning from her
how to laugh at this poem.

How to turn each bridge
into a balcony. To applaud

everything that floats
down river. Depending

which way you turn,
the water is coming

or it has already left.


Steven Espada Dawson is a writer from East Los Angeles by way of Denver. The son of a Mexican immigrant, he serves as poetry editor for Sycamore Review. Winner of the Barriss and Iola Mills Award and finalist for the Kneale Award and NOR Poetry Contest, his poems have appeared in HobartNew Ohio Review, and elsewhere. He tweets @verylargemoth.


Next (Melissa Crowe) >

< Previous (Jessica Abughattas)