Steven Espada Dawson
to a friend, ask if a decade is long
enough to declare my brother legally dead—
ask how there can be grief without wisdom
teeth, cracked sternum, caution tape.
Mom says Brian doesn’t have a heart
worth hating, says heroin slipped him
quick through the family’s tourniquet.
I want to lock my brother in nostalgia’s
mausoleum, throw the key in the crematory.
Instead I tuck death in a shoebox
under my bed like a pile of love letters.
My brother is my one who got away,
that good push of hair behind an ear.
I coo his death to sleep, feel its breath
thaw my nipple. When I hear death snore
I yell into the pillow, punch the mattress
until the springs jab back. Into this pot
I toss each spoon my brother burned.
This poem is a cauldron summoning him
sober and here. When he starts to sprint
away, I break the line like a femur.
Steven Espada Dawson is from East Los Angeles and lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is the Jay C. and Ruth Halls Fellow in Poetry at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. The son of a Mexican immigrant, he is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. Most recently, his work appears in AGNI, Guernica, Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, and Poetry.
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