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On Metaphor

In back of daddy’s closet,

behind the cold and loaded

pistol, I find a cedar box

of snapshots—his company

in camouflage, waving rifles,

reefer, and middle fingers

at the photographer. At you.

And at me. And here,

the full-lipped redbone

he left in the world without

a goodbye. Here, a strange

boy with my father’s forehead,

same sullen eyes. Flip the photo:

a stranger’s name and dates

that don’t add, scrawled as if

rushed, as if a fugitive’s note

slipped quick to the future.

When my mother walks in,

I shove the box to the back

of the shelf, say nothing

of the redbone or the boy.

I hand her, instead, the pistol.

A .45, I believe. Its cold barrel

swelling in the room’s bum

light. When she angles it,

just so, I think I see my father

reflected in the steel. Wait, no—

Not my father. It’s me.

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.