John Murillo


John Murillo is the author of the poetry collections, Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher 2010, Four Way 2020), finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Pen Open Book Award, and Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (forthcoming from Four Way Books 2020). His honors include a Pushcart Prize, the J Howard and Barbara MJ Wood Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Cave Canem Foundation, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Best American Poetry 2017, 2019, and 2020. He is an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University and also teaches in the low residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. Source

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.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Memory & The Past

Police Brutality

Racial Injustice

Violence & War

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic