John Murillo is the author of the poetry collections Up Jump the Boogie (2010), which was a finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award, and Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2020. His work has appeared in Callaloo, Court Green, Ninth Letter, and Ploughshares, and is forthcoming in Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of African-American Poetry. A graduate of New York University’s MFA program in creative writing, he is an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.
Mercy, Mercy, Me
Crips, Bloods, and butterflies.
A sunflower somehow planted
in the alley. Its broken neck.
Maybe memory is all the home
you get. And rage, where you
first learn how fragile the axis
upon which everything tilts.
But to say you’ve come to terms
with a city that’s never loved you
might be overstating things a bit.
All you know is there was once
a walk-up where now sits a lot,
vacant, and rats in deep grass
hide themselves from the day.
That one apartment fire
set back in ’76—one the streets
called arson to collect a claim—
could not do, ultimately, what
the city itself did, left to its own dank
devices, some sixteen years later.
Rebellions, said some. Riots,
said the rest. In any case, flames;
and the home you knew, ash.
It’s not an actual memory, but
you remember it still: a rust-
bottomed Datsun handed down,
then stolen. Stripped, recovered,
and built back from bolts.
Driving away in May. 1992.
What’s left of that life quivers
in the rearview—the world on fire,
and half your head with it.
Originally published in Poem-a-Day by the Academy of American Poets.
- Writer’s Website.
- Interview with Rachel Zucker. The Commonplace Podcast. 30 June 2016.
- Interview with Nicole Sealey. Pen America. 8 March 2016.
Tina Chang & John Murillo Reading I February 25, 2020
Seminar I February 25, 2020
Reading I February 25, 2020