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.