John Murillo


There are no windows here, and the walls
Are lined with egg cartons. So if we listen
Past the sampled piano, drum kick
And speakerbox rumble, we‟d still not hear
The robins celebrating daybreak.
The engineer worries the mixboard,
Something about a hiss lurking between notes.
Dollar Bill curses the engineer, time
We don‟t have. Says it‟s just a demo
And doesn‟t need perfecting. “Niggas
Always want to make like Quincy Jones
When you‟re paying by the hour.”
Deejay Eddie Scizzorhandz—because he cuts
So nice—taps ashes into an empty pizza box,
Head nodding to his latest masterpiece:
Beethoven spliced with Mingus,
Mixed with Frankie Beverly, all laid
On Billy Squire‟s “Big Beat.”
I‟m in a corner, crossing out and rewriting
Lines I‟ll want to forget years later,
Looking up every now and then,
To watch Sheik Spear, Pomona‟s finest emcee,
In the vocal booth, spitting rhymes
He never bothers putting to paper,
Nearly hypnotized by the gold-plated cross
Swinging from his neck as he, too,
Will swing, days from now, before
They cut him from the rafters of a jail cell.




“1989” was first published in Court Green, No. 7, Fall ’09, and appears in Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher Books, 2010).