“On Metaphor”

From John Murillo's Collection, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry

March 9, 2020  By John Murillo

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 © 2020 by John Murillo. Appears with the permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

John Murillo
John Murillo is also the author of the poetry collection, Up Jump the Boogie, (originally from Cypher and NOW reissued from Four Way Books) finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award. His honors include a Pushcart Prize, two Larry Neal writers awards, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Cave Canem Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies including American Poetry Review, Poetry, and Best American Poetry 2017 and 2019. He is an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University and also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.

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