John Murillo

Trouble Man

It’s the bone of a question
     Caught in your throat,
Pre-dawn sighs of the day’s
     First traffic, shoulders like
Fists under your skin. Say
     It‟s raining this morning,
You‟ve just left a woman’s
     Blue musk and duvet,
To find devil knows what
     In the world, your wet collar,
Too thin jacket, no match
     For pissed off sky gods.
And say this car pulls near,
     Plastic bag for passenger
Side window, trading rain
     For music. Marvin Gaye.
And maybe you know
     This song. How long
Since a man you called father
     Troubled the hi-fi, smoldering
Newport in hand, and ran
     This record under a needle.
How long since a man’s
     Broken falsetto colored
Every hour indigo. Years
     Since he drifted, dreaming
Into rice fields, stammered
     Cracked Vietcong, gunboats
And helicopters swirling
     In his head. Years since
His own long walks, silent
     Returns, and Marvin’s
Many voices his only salve.
     He came up harder than
You know, your father.
     Didn‟t make it by the rules.
Your father came up hard,
     Didn‟t get to make no rules.
Graying beard, callused hands,
     Fingernails thick as nickels,
You were the boy who became
     That man, without meaning
To, and know now: A man’s
     Life is never measured
In beats, but beat-downs,
     Not line breaks, just breaks.
You hear Marvin fade down
     The avenue and it caresses you
Like a brick: Your father,
     Marvin, and men like them,
Have already moaned every
     Book you will ever write.
This you know, baby. This
     You know.




“Trouble Man” was first published in Ninth Letter, Vol. 4 No. 1, Sp. ’07, and appears in Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher Books, 2010).