…… 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.
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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