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Dear Yusef

Again last night, I caught Medusa

sitting in my living room.

Not the devil. Not the dog

in the shadows, made of shadows.

Not the old translucent maroon

sharpening his machete. But

Medusa, lighting a spliff, spreading

tarot cards across the floor.

I didn’t startle when a door slammed

but half expected a black cat

to run over my shoes. She wore

the same red lipstick as the night

before, Yusef. Same black teddy

with the skinny strap slipped

from her shoulder. Singing to herself,

her voice split in two—contralto,

baritone: balladeer stroking the braids

of a woman everyone knows

he beats; the woman singing Yes

and It’s alright… Sequined sleeves

hiding every track, a disco ball

scattering shards of light along

some drab and peeling wall—Medusa

cut the deck, relit the spliff, flipped

one card, then another. Took a pull

so long I thought she’d catch fire.

You’ve not always been a good man,

she said, showing seven cards,

coughing hard. There was something

she wasn’t telling me. She liked

that I didn’t ask. Liked how I watched

her dusting ashes from her thigh.

I see trouble finds you easy, hey boy?

I pulled her onto my lap, or I slid

myself, somehow, up under her

—I can’t remember which—

she singing Yes, and It’s alright

then slipping the joint, fire side first,

between her lips, she took my face

in her hands, and shotgunned a cloud

into my open mouth. Some nights,

Yusef, the serpents curse my name.

Some nights, they tell me secrets.

from Kontemporary Amerikan PoetryFind more by John Murillo at the library

Copyright © 2020 John Murillo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in John Murillo Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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