Skip to content →

Mercy, Mercy Me

Crips, Bloods, and butterflies.

A sunflower somehow planted

in the alley. Its broken neck.

Maybe memory is all the home

you get. And rage, where you

first learn how fragile the axis

upon which everything tilts.

But to say you’ve come to terms

with a city that’s never loved you

might be overstating things a bit.

All you know is there was once

a walk-up where now sits a lot,

vacant, and rats in deep grass

hide themselves from the day.

That one apartment fire

set back in ’76—one the streets

called arson to collect a claim—

could not do, ultimately, what

the city itself did, left to its own dank

devices, some sixteen years later.

Rebellions, said some. Riots,

said the rest. In any case, flames;

and the home you knew, ash.

It’s not an actual memory, but

you remember it still: a rust-

bottomed Datsun handed down,

then stolen. Stripped, recovered,

and built back from bolts.

Driving away in May. 1992.

What’s left of that life quivers

in the rearview—the world on fire,

and half your head with it.

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.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.