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On Confessionalism

Not sleepwalking, but waking still,

with my hand on a gun, and the gun

in a mouth, and the mouth

on the face of a man on his knees.

Autumn of ’89, and I’m standing

in a Section 8 apartment parking lot,

pistol cocked, and staring down

at this man, then up into the mug

of an old woman staring, watering

the single sad flower to the left

of her stoop, the flower also staring.

My engine idling behind me, a slow

moaning bassline and the bark

of a dead rapper nudging me on.

All to say, someone’s brokenhearted.

And this man with the gun in his mouth—

this man who, like me, is really little

more than a boy—may or may not

have something to do with it.

May or may not have said a thing

or two, betrayed a secret, say,

that walked my love away. And why

not say it: She adored me. And I,

her. More than anyone, anything

in life, up to then, and then still,

for two decades after. And, therefore,

went for broke. Blacked out and woke

having gutted my piggy and pawned

all my gold to buy what a homeboy

said was a Beretta. Blacked out

and woke, my hand on a gun, the gun

in a mouth, a man, who was really

a boy, on his knees. And because

I loved the girl, I actually paused

before I pulled the trigger—once,

twice, three times—then panicked

not just because the gun jammed,

but because what if it hadn’t,

because who did I almost become,

there, that afternoon, in a Section 8

apartment parking lot, pistol cocked,

with the sad flower staring, because

I knew the girl I loved—no matter

how this all played out—would never

have me back. Day of damaged ammo,

or grime that clogged the chamber.

Day of faulty rods, or springs come

loose in my fist. Day nobody died,

so why not Hallelujah? Say Amen or

Thank you? My mother sang for years

of God, babes, and fools. My father,

lymph node masses fading from

his x-rays, said surviving one thing

means another comes and kills you.

He’s dead, and so, I trust him. Dead,

and so I’d wonder, years, about the work

I left undone—boy on his knees

a man now, risen, and likely plotting

his long way back to me. Fuck it.

I tucked my tool like the movie gangsters

do, and jumped back in my bucket.

Cold enough day to make a young man

weep, afternoon when everything,

or nothing, changed forever. The dead

rapper grunted, the bassline faded,

my spirits whispered something

from the trees. I left, then lost the pistol

in a storm drain, somewhere between

that life and this. Left the pistol in

a storm drain, but never got around

to wiping away the prints.

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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