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John Murillo

John Murillo is the author of the poetry collections Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher Books 2010) and Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2020. He is an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. Murillo lives in Brooklyn, New York.  

John Murillo
Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

By This Poet

1

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.