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

Variation on a Theme by Elizabeth Bishop

Start with loss. Lose everything. Then lose it all again.

Lose a good woman on a bad day. Find a better woman,

Then lose five friends chasing her. Learn to lose as if

Your life depended on it. Learn that your life depends on it.

Learn it like karate, like riding a bike. Learn to fall

Forever. Lose money, lose time, lose your natural mind.

Get left behind, then learn to leave others. Lose and

Lose again. Measure a father’s coffin against a cousin’s

Crashing T-cells. Kiss your sister through prison glass.

Know why your woman’s not answering her phone.

Lose sleep. Lose religion. Lose your wallet in El Segundo.

Open your window. Listen: the last slow notes

Of a Donny Hathaway song. A child crying. Listen:

A drunk man is cussing out the moon. He sounds like

Your dead uncle, who, before he left, lost a leg

To sugar. Shame. Learn what’s given can be taken;

What can be taken, will. This you can bet on without

Losing. Sure as nightfall and an empty bed. Lose

And lose again. Lose until it’s second nature. Losing

Farther, losing faster. Lean out your open window, listen:

The child is laughing now. No, it’s the drunk man again

In the street, losing his voice, suffering each invisible star.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Death & Loss

Literary Devices:


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


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences