DC PLACES ISSUE

Brian Gilmore

 

BILLY ECKSTINE COMES TO WASHINGTON D.C. (FOR GASTON NEAL)

he strolled in
w/ amiri baraka

decked out in
a long dark trenchcoat

yassar arafat scarf

beret

made me think of
black panthers
dali

only he wasn't no painter
because he wasn't smiling
like romare bearden
and wasn't no panther
either
so i was
told
but

he was carrying poems
and the people were
his politics

a friend nudged me
said he was good
maybe he might
read a few
after baraka

but he didn't
because
we wasn't that blessed yet
wasn't time for

"Mumbo Sauce Please !
Mumbo Sauce Please !"

dripping thick over deep
fried chicken wings
served w/o napkins

i met him years later
he told me about
my city
how he was there
on 14th Street
when "Murder One"
laid junkies out
in alleys with needles
still in their arms
as they soared like
baseballs over
bannaker playground
fence

he told me he talked to langston
hughes over the phone
langston treated him like they
had known each other
for 49 years,
like they had grown up
together in joplin, missouri

back in the day he was there
on u street with stokley when
word came that the king was dead and
the country would burn and
break and crack and wail.

sometimes i look at him
see my grandfather on his porch
preaching about unions
or willie "the lion" smith
at the piano
reminding young upstarts
that his fingers can
still dance like chorus girls
rehearsing for
a show

other times i look at him
my friends and i are sharing ice
cold beer
bragging about dunking
reverse lay-ups
pool games
we no longer have time
to play

i finally did hear
his poetry
now i know why pennsylvania
steel towners need other
neighborhoods to love

no more rides on the horse
this body ain't no amusement park

pittsburgh headed to washington d.c. to
write some songs

like billy eckstine coming here
a second life is lived

but don't call this no dickens tale.



Brian Gilmore is the author of two books of poems: Elvis Presley is alive and well and living in Harlem (Third World Press, 1992), and Jungle Nights & Soda Fountain Rags (Karibu Books, 1999). He was born and raised in Washington, DC.

 

Published in Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006.

 

To read more by this author:
Brian Gilmore
Brian Gilmore's Introduction to Vol, 2, No. 4 (Fall 2001)
Gilmore's Tribute to Waring Cuney: The Memorial Issue
Brian Gilmore: Evolving City Issue

Brian Gilmore: Split This Rock Issue
Brian Gilmore: Audio Issue
Brian Gilmore: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue
Brian Gilmore: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Brian Gilmore on Drum & Spear Bookstore: Literary Organizations Issue
Brian Gilmore: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue
Brian Gilmore on May Miller: Poetic Ancestors Issue