IT'S YOUR MUG ANNIVERSARY ISSUE

Brian Gilmore

 

THE TONIGHT SHOW
for tony

gray rings of
acapulco gold
float above
my head

tony and i just copped
some weed in
a driving snowstorm
where we lose ourselves in a
makeshift opium den like soldiers
in a trench

down the backstairs behind my
house to do the chicago: two hits pass
don’t exhale
hold it in
until we are
smokestacks downtown

we do this over and over
like catholics sharing
communion
only we aren’t catholic
and this ain’t wine
this is another encounter
with that place my folks warned
me about: the road to nowhere

that is why my father has come out back in
a semi-blizzard to tell tony and me
the war is over

we can come out of our bunker now
we can stop soaring the sky
like eagles with no sense of direction
it is much too cold outside
he says

i do not ask him can we finish our trip
didn’t even know if he noticed the smoke
coming out my ears in clumps
the three of us go inside
sit down in the basement
begin to watch “the tonight show”

johnny carson’s monologue is funny
for the very first time
tony and i stare at each other
between jokes
ask w/o speaking: why didn’t your
father kill us yet?
is the weed that good?

we keep watching johnny. ed mcmahon is
funny too.
we cannot believe
any of this. either we are extremely lucky
or my father got a contact.

soon my father rises to go to bed
when johnny’s monologue
is over. he tells me don’t forget to turn
off the television before i go to sleep.
he tells tony goodnight.

tony and i lay back on the couch
relax
think about what there is
to watch.
i turn the channel to watch
roger moore in “the saint”

it is just coming on
that white halo
has popped above
simon templar’s head
to let us know
who the good guy is

i watch my father ascend the
stairs slowly
i know he will talk to me
tomorrow about my recent space travel.
ask me where was i headed
about the ring that was floating above my head
when he stopped me and tony on the way to chicago
in a driving snowstorm

a ring that didn’t at
all resemble
a halo.

 

BRONX WAR
for allison, caren, rhonda, dev & all the others

...............for 18 years she worked as a housekeeper at a
little motel on new york avenue. worked so long
and hard her spine turned into cracker crumbs,
ankles became grapefruits.

soaked her feet every evening for 15 years, popped
tylenol like lifesavers, always came to work
on time, never took off except for funerals. never
asked for anything except the keys to the rooms
she had to clean; this she did for 18 years
at a little motel on new york avenue.

...............last month they asked her to take a pay cut,
forfeit her health benefits, pension, renounce
her membership in the union. this they asked
this black woman after 18 years of dedicated
service. she told them she changed too many
beds to begin sleeping on the floor,
scrubbed too many toilets to be treated
like waste, picked up too much trash
to be thrown into the garbage.

...............she has nothing now.

...............the first latino woman started right after
they closed, fired her and all the other black women
and re-opened under new management.
roberto was the manager now; he had worked his
way all the way up from the maintenance. roberto
told the owners he could save their
motel, if they made him,
roberto, the manager.

he knew women who would work at the motel,
women who really needed to work,
who had no time for strikes, walk-outs, didn’t need
a pension, health care, or anything else
that always complicates things.

...............cities are snipers. there are no more
steel mills in gary indiana or
pittsburgh pennsylvania. a lot of buildings
are boarded up in detroit where henry ford
once turned out cars like they were
sandwiches at a deli.

...............people are sandwiches.
...............housekeepers named
...............angie, diane, debra, pearl.
...............maria. juanita. isabel.

...............tonight i’ll stay in a room at the motel
on new york avenue.
i’ll make up my own bed, take out the
trash myself before i check out,
leave money on the dresser, take
this poem fold it neatly, place it in
the drawer beside the gideon bible
and the stack of telephone books.
two copies:
..............................one in english

..............................el otro en
..............................espanol.


Brian Gilmore is a poet, and public interest lawyer from Washington DC. He writes for ebony jet online, and is a columnist with the Progressive Media Project.

 

Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.

 

Read more by this author:
Brian Gilmore
Gilmore's Introduction to Vol, 2, No. 4 (Fall 2001)
Gilmore on Waring Cuney: Memorial Issue
Brian Gilmore: DC Places Issue
Brian Gilmore: Evolving City Issue
Brian Gilmore: Split This Rock Issue
Brian Gilmore: Audio 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