On Metaphor

In back of daddy’s closet, 
behind the cold and loaded 
pistol, I find a cedar box 
of snapshots—his company 
in camouflage, waving rifles,
reefer, and middle fingers 
at the photographer. At you.  
And at me. And here, 
the full-lipped redbone
he left in the world without
a goodbye. Here, a strange
boy with my father’s forehead,
same sullen eyes. Flip the photo: 
a stranger’s name and dates 
that don’t add, scrawled as if
rushed, as if a fugitive’s note
slipped quick to the future.
When my mother walks in,
I shove the box to the back
of the shelf, say nothing
of the redbone or the boy.
I hand her, instead, the pistol.
A .45, I believe. Its cold barrel
swelling in the room’s bum
light. When she angles it,
just so, I think I see my father
reflected in the steel. Wait, no—
Not my father. It’s me.



From Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo (Four Way Books, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by John Murillo. Used with the permission of the poet.