Enter the Dragon

[Dwayne Betts]

The challenge with poetry for me is how to make it mean something in the world I live. This poem is by a friend of mine. His new book Up Jump the Boogie is ill—and it's about a world, not about words. I was going to post his crown of sonnets about hip hop—but you have to have some stamina to read a 98 line poem. So we'll check out "Enter The Dragon" and call it an early ode to fathers and Father's Day.

by John Murillo
Los Angeles, California, 1976

For me, the movie starts with a black man
Leaping into an orbit of badges, tiny moons

Catching the sheen of his perfect black afro.
Arc kicks, karate chops, and thirty cops

On their backs.  It starts with the swagger,
The cool lean into the leather front seat

Of the black and white he takes off in.
Deep hallelujahs of moviegoers drown

Out the wah wah guitar.  Salt & butter
High-fives, Right on, brother! and Daddy

Glowing so bright he can light the screen
All by himself.  This is how it goes down.

Friday night and my father drives us 
Home from the late show, two heroes

Cadillacking across King Boulevard.
In the cars dark cab, we jab and clutch,

Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee with popcorn 
Breath, and almost miss the lights flashing 

In the cracked side mirror.  I know whats
Under the seat, but when the uniforms

Approach from the rear quarter panel,
When the fat one leans so far into my father's 

Window I can smell his long day's work,
When my father this John Henry of a man,

Hides his hammer, doesn't buck, tucks away 
His baritone, license and registration shaking as if

Showing a bathroom pass to a grade school
Principal, I learn the difference between cinema

And city, between the moviehouse cheers
Of old men and the silence that gets us home.