Tina Chang and John Murillo

Posted in 2019-2020 Readings and Talks

Tina Chang headshot and John Murillo headshot

February 25, 2020

Seminar 4:30 PM | Lannan Center (New North 408)
Reading 7:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge


—Tina Chang

Before my son was born, I had been inside my home often and,
one spring day, sat myself on the astroturf behind a playground
close to my home. I laid back, allowing the plastic grass to prick
my arms and wrists. A few feet away, three girls sang a string of
songs about heartbreak, all the while the lyrics broke and remade
themselves on the edge of each spring leaf. I listened and I didn’t
listen at once which felt like my fullest attention. The girls were
so casual in their beauty, legs entangled in one another, fingers
braiding each other’s teen hair. They seemed like one animal of
burnished light and I tried not to stare. It was the kind of beauty
that held its own attention, needed no validation, long eyelashes
and pale arms gestured toward wholly bright selves. I closed my
eyes hearing their laughter. I heard, too, from afar someone
approaching. I heard a small thud and a boy’s voice. They talked,
they joked, and then a silence that made me open my eyes. After
a longer pause, they asked him to please leave. I now saw the boy
was black and I registered an expression that was slow rain
coming down hard as he grabbed his backpack swinging it so
fiercely, it almost hit one of the girls. As he walked away, they
laughed past him. Their laughter was the long shadow that
followed him for years, their laughter forced him to round the
corner, almost gone from view. Before he disappeared, he yelled,
“Bitch,” but the memory of him left not a trace. The girls
continued to sing except now there were thorns falling on the
imagined grass, some of which landed close to me. When I sat up,
I felt a strong kick inside me. My boy would be here soon. Six
more days into the future I would meet him. I touched the area
that moved. I waited.

From Hybrida (W. W. Norton, 2019)

Read more about Tina Chang

From A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn

—John Murillo

“And at times, didn’t the whole country try to break his skin?”

                                    —Tim Seibles

You strike your one good match to watch its bloom
and jook, a swan song just before a night 
wind comes to snuff it.  That’s the kind of day
it’s been.  Your Black & Mild, now, useless as
a prayer pressed between your lips.  God damn
the wind.  And everything it brings.  You hit
the corner store to cop a light, and spy
the trouble rising in the cashier’s eyes.
TV reports some whack job shot two cops
then popped himself, here, in the borough, just
one mile away.  You’ve heard this one before.
In which there’s blood.  In which a black man snaps.
In which things burn.  You buy your matches.  Christ
is watching from the wall art, swathed in fire.

“This country is mine as much as an orphan’s house is his.”

                                    —Terrance Hayes

To breathe it in, this boulevard perfume
of beauty shops and roti shacks, to take
in all its funk, calypso, reggaeton,
and soul, to watch school kids and elders go
about their days, their living, is, if not 
to fall in love, at least to wonder why
some want us dead.  Again this week, they killed
another child who looked like me.  A child
we’ll march about, who’ll grace our placards, say,
then be forgotten like a trampled pamphlet.  What
I want, I’m not supposed to.  Payback.  Woe
and plenty trouble for the gunman’s clan.
I’m not suppose to.  But I want a brick,
a window.  One good match, to watch it bloom.

Continue reading “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn” at American Poetry Review.
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