Can it ever be perfect? Can I make a sentence/paragraph/page turn in such a way as to allow me the writer to feel that sense of wonder – did I do that? – a wonder not to be marred later by a re-reading and the more often than not inevitable realization that something could have been improved upon.

Unlike the ephemeral arts – music, cooking – writing lingers, lurking, to shame us into that embarrassed realization that what at first blush seemed wonderful – nay marvelous – is in fact only mediocre or ordinary. That sentence that seemed so sharp and well crafted seems clunky and rough, an approximation of a thought rather than the crystallization of one.

Writing is a fierce mistress and an unforgiving one. So why write?


Enter the Dragon

…… Los Angeles, California, 1976

For me, the movie starts with a black man

Leaping into an orbit of badges, tiny moons

Catching the sheen of his perfect black afro.

Arc kicks, karate chops, and thirty cops

On their backs. It starts with the swagger,

The cool lean into the leather front seat

Of the black and white he takes off in.

Deep hallelujahs of moviegoers drown

Out the wah wah guitar. Salt & butter

High-fives, Right on, brother! And Daddy

Glowing so bright he can light the screen

All by himself. This is how it goes down.

Friday night and my father drives us

Home from the late show, two heroes

Cadillacking across King Boulevard.

In the car’s dark cab, we jab and clutch,

Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee with popcorn

Breath, and almost miss the lights flashing

In the cracked side mirror. I know what’s

Under the seat, but when the uniforms

Approach from the rear quarter panel,

When the fat one leans so far into my father’s

Window I can smell his long day’s work,

When my father-this John Henry of a man-

Hides his hammer, doesn’t buck, tucks away

His baritone, license and registration shaking as if

Showing a bathroom pass to a grade school

Principal, I learn the difference between cinema

And city, between the moviehouse cheers

Of old men and the silence that gets us home.

-John Murillo

From Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher Books, 2010). Used by permission.

John Murillo is the current Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. A graduate of New York University’s MFA program in creative writing, he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, the New York Times, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He is a two-time Larry Neal Writers Award winner, a former instructor with DCWritersCorps, and the author of the poetry collection, Up Jump the Boogie.

Murillo appeared on the panel Aqui Estamos: A Sampling of Poetry from the Inaugural Acentos Poetry Festival during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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Split This Rock

Children's Fiction

“Sleeping Dragons All Around”

I love this book by Sheree Fitch. I loved it so much my then 3 year old would groan when I brought it out. It resonates with the child in me that knows there is so much that is scary all around, and yet when brought out into the light of day (or reason) turns out to be like so many things, much smaller, and less scary then they were imagined to be.

Sometimes I still go “fast, past” whatever it is that is spooking me, but mostly I can look and see that it is just Fagan the dragon, who smells, or Glump, who snores or the old wrinkly one whose name escapes me, but who sings in his sleep.

: ) Life is a funny thing …