John S. Murillo

 

POINT

it starts with the vultures.
        an empty playground.

asphalt sky.  always
        the vultures.  one perched

on each rim.  feathers fan
        backboards.  it always starts

here.  I bring the ball up left
        handed, just like you.  left

handed, the way you taught me. 
        cross half court.  stutter step.

reverse pivot and pull.  point
        your elbow at the bucket, boy;

and follow through.  always follow
        through.
  I square my body, gather

my legs, then lock into eyes eager to peck
        the brittle bones of my lay ups.

shot clock dies,  a whistle blows.
        I must begin again.  Out of bounds,

ball in hand.  scan the court
        for an open man.  daddy, 

did you hear?  the Lakers got Shaq. 
        think this’ll be our season?
 

no one to pass to.  nowhere to throw.  boy,
        my lungs are blacker than the grooves

in that there ball you got.  It ain’t no more
        seasons.
  a buzzer sounds. 

I begin again, a blacktop Sisyphus
        in sweatsocks, pushing

upcourt.  I can’t see the clock,
       but I know it’s there. 

It ain’t no more seasons.  Just the ticking
        time and that rock you squeezing.

Once, my afro was bigger than my body.
        You held me over head

with a ball in my hand and laughed, said
        now we both got some sun

to hold onto.  I pushed the ball off the tips
        of my fingers, and watched it

ride the rim like a drunken wallenda.
        those were the days

before black wings.  beaks.  birds
        tracing eights on skies

as cracked and as lovely as this
        concrete that keeps me from falling.


Margaret Fragonito
Journey from CAOS

 

FOR MY NEIGHBORS WHO WALK WITH PURSES, LIPS, AND ASSES CLUTCHED TIGHT AS THEY HURRY PAST ME ON THEIR WAY TO STARBUCKS WITH A CELL PHONE IN ONE HAND AND A LEASH IN THE OTHER
--after Martin Espada

I have awakened to the rumble of stampeding bulldozers
flattening skulls of black Barbies under hoof.
I have choked on jackhammer dust in the shadows
of ten story skeletons and billboards that trumpet your coming.
I have watched potholes vanish and stop signs appear
next to shiny new health food markets.
I have witnessed tribes of drummers communing with God
pushed from parks like Navajos from their native ground.
I have seen the chiseled noses, Duke Ellington’s
mural, a sphinx on the wrong side of Giza.
I have zig zagged to work between the yapping
end of your leash on the street’s one side,
and the curbed furniture of an evicted family on the other.

May the Saints of Dilapidation cave condominiums
in on the flaxen strands splayed across pillows.
May the Gods of Rain Gutters deploy a sewer rat battalion
to gather and execute all poodles.
May the Spirits of Foodstamps sneak into your wallet
and turn all your Ben Franklins to Bushes.
May the Angels of Government Cheese curdle your latte
and send you hurling ass first toward porcelain.
May your sleep be disrupted by visits from Biggie, Pac,
and Big Pun singing Pavarotti and P-Diddy remixes.
May your furniture float.  May your walls bleed graffiti.
May your house speak in Robeson’s voice.  And may your
leather couches become housing projects for cockroaches
until two-headed albino alligators buy their way
into your living room.


INVOKING MARVIN AT MIDNIGHT
                --for L. H.

        Picture the preacher’s son   secular   sanctified
spotlight and nightsweat     bluesmoke and silkthroat
        eyes closed   head tossed   voice naked
knees trembling      Trouble Man      moaning wholly
        holy  Love   have mercy   Love have
     mercy       holler Marvin  holler 

Dreamed of you this morning
        then came the dawn and
I thought if you were here with me…

        Picture the poet   nightsweat and lamplight
fingers throbbing    threadbare tongue    ghost mounted
        errant son    Picture the woman
known before      comes back      spoken for   
        See the poet’s barren hands    blood before words
this bard without throat    a woman to bring back
        and no song to sing     no song to sing
help me holler  Marvin    help me  help her  remember

Dreamed of you this morning
        then came the dawn and
I thought if you were here with me…

        What is it    Marvin    makes a man
need so strong      what he ain’t suppose to have
        want so bad       what he ain’t suppose to want
what is it     Marvin    makes men like us    holler
        and moan    holler and moan    why a blues
so mean     she gotta come back twice

Dreamed of you this morning
        then came the dawn and
I thought if you were here with me…

       

(Song Lyrics from Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again, by Marvin Gaye)


Margaret Fragonito
Land of Arnheim /HUMAN DIGNITY

 

THE PRESIDENT OF THE SANKOFA SOCIETY SHEDS HIS DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS
                                   --Howard University, Washington DC

Severed dreds curl edge
of brown paper bag
like fingers clawing
from an open grave.    
......................................Sure,
he talked shit
about “slave mentality,”
“modern uncle toms,”
and “plantation knee-grows.”
......................................But,
graduation is a week away
and you can’t buy Bentleys
with cowrie shells.

 

John S. Murillo is an Afro-Chicano poet and playwright, originally from Los Angeles, CA.  He is a Cave Canem fellow and a former instructor with DCWritersCorps.  A coach of D.C.’s 2001 National Teen Poetry Slam Team, John has performed his own work in venues from The Kaffa House to The Kennedy Center.  The 2002 and 2004 winner of the Larry Neal Award for Poetry, John is the author of the chapbook, Aluta, and the forthcoming collection of essays, A Poet in Havana, both from ZuluAzteca Press. 

Published in Volume 6, Number 2, Spring 2005.