Liquor Trial


I find a bullet in the crown of Smirnoff shards

In my garden of rocks.

This bala whispers last night’s lines,

The faint “leave her alones,”

From the near-silent jury—

Abuelo’s daughters and me.

Most nights I slept through pistol flauntings.

Just once I saw the routine-eighty-proof-stench

Distill my nightmares into our reality—

Mom between a gun and abuelita.

Abuelo’s hands never struck her cheeks.

His bullets always came close.

“Pare por favor, please stop.”

The bala repeats what we could not.

We waited, letting our lives ferment.

For decades, abuelo played Mexican love songs

When he drank. Drowning the shouts

From the witnesses—his daughters,

Grandchildren. Drained like scattered bottles

In the labyrinth we called casa.

Abuelo spent and torn

Like the trapped bullet,

La bala atrapada,

In this rocky crown of thorns.


Javier Zamora was born and raised in El Salvador. At the age of nine he migrated to the United States to be reunited with this parents. He attends UC Berkeley, majoring in Latin American history and minoring in creative writing. His full-length manuscript was a finalist in the 2009 Violet Reed Hass Contest. This summer he attended the Bread Loaf, Napa Valley, and Squaw Valley Writing conferences as a scholarship student. His poems have or will appear in In Posse Review, The Homestead Review, and Mitali’s Fire Escape.