Brian Gilmore

Brian Gilmore: Tenth Anniversary

Tenth Anniversary Issue: A Tribute to Guest Editors
Volume 11:1, Winter 2010

Guest Editor, “The Woodshed,” Fall 2001

Brian writes:
“I kind of see the emergence of Beltway Poetry and other electronic publications such as The Apple Valley Review as the beginning of a new era in poetry publishing. It was the official beginning, at least to me, of the digital publishing era in poetry where poetry reaches more people differently. It hit me when I edited Beltway because I had a chance to interact with poets I respected who were not traditional poets seeking prizes and grants and academic accolades. And then I saw the great and wide (not narrow and insular) response to their work; it was impressive and important. Beltway and similar efforts was simply reaching so many more people quickly online right where they were going at the time.

When I got a poem published in The Apple Valley Review in 2007 and it was actually nominated for a Pushcart Prize, it was clear then what Beltway had already started: the shop of the traditional poetry publishing world was closed but there was a new shop open, and it was efficient, well produced, very literary and flexible, and most of all, it had changed the poetry world drastically. Where e-zines and e-journals, and e-anthologies, and other digital manifestations of poetry, were once not even acknowledged by the insular, elitist world of traditional, academic poetry, those days ended when publications like Beltway, The Apple Valley Review, and others emerged. In fact, all one has to notice is how Poetry Magazine is devoting so much time and space to its electronic side as evidence of this shift. That in a nutshell is what the Beltway experience will always be for me: the moment that poetry, as I had understood it up until that point, had changed for the better and had taken off its disguise, the one which made people despise poetry so much and think of it as boring.”

From the Editor:
Brian Gilmore guest edited in 2001, and his issue allowed me to include writers whose artistic development was influenced by their time in residence in Washington, DC, even if they no longer live here. I am indebted to him for opening up my definition of a Washington writer, and for his continuing support and encouragement of Beltway Poetry throughout the years since. Brian has been a stalwart champion of the journal. In addition to his issue, The Woodshed, he was featured in Beltway in 2001, contributed an essay on Waring Cuney to the first literary history issue (The Memorial Issue), and has poems in several other special themed issues: DC Places, The Evolving City, Split This Rock, the Audio Issue, and the It’s Your Mug Anniversary Issue. I admire his precision of language, his musicality, and his love of the city of DC, which infuses so much of his poetry.


UpDown, 2009alkyd on wood, 9"x6"

Kathy Keler
UpDown, 2009
alkyd on wood, 9″x6″



for my father

I will not die in Korea.
My children born.
Thousands of colored
men. Dead like ants who
have crawled
too far for crumbs.

Harry Truman
giving hell. Executive Order
9981. This is what could have
been. What wasn’t shall never

I meet the man on his grisly turf.
Never meet the rising sun. So many colored
men dying like middle passengers dragged here
by ship. N – Double – A – C-P loud like
locusts. Coast guardsmen Haley
scratch the word. Charles
Rangel Harlem hero. Hell giving
Harry wants to rule the world.

I came down to the city of
government, learned to type, got
a good government job: GS-1
or 2. Something to talk over
with gin and lime. I meet a graduate
of Paul Dunbar High. Pretty lady
who spins some tales, writes
like the queen, doesn’t fret
about how it be.

She walks behind Charles Drew
good god of blood. Jesse Faucet well-
mannered with word.

Her shorthand is a poem.
Civil service exam freedom train.
Days full of rooms and men.
She dances dark streets where she is
told to stay. Her mother out pounding
the pave,
buying the bread,
bringing the
south up north for respect.
Thousands write letters send dollars
for more. No more hot sun
cow milk days. Fields of rice corn
cake break. World bank
like crop share crooks. Trapped
in bricks but give glory to God.

I didn’t die in
Korea. I was lucky; My children
born. I was courteous
to the pretty Dunbar woman.
I came to the city, got a good government
job, fell in love with shorthand,
talked about it humbly over gin and lime.

but most of all, I learned how to type.


for amy goodman & alan

best of all
was the back row.

criminal law.

charlie parker
and thelonious monk
are jews.

allan ginsberg and bernard
malamud are black men
who have given up
malt liquor
to meet marbury
huey p newton
liberated on a technicality
for offing a pig

and how about the rich white
woman who died and left father divine
her entire fortune and gave the judge
a fatal heart attack?

i never raise my hand on the back row.
i listen to monk.
he’s got the voice and it isn’t
charlton heston parting the red sea.

he lays down the law of moses as it came to him in
the great borough of brooklyn:

you are charles hamilton houston.
louis farrakhan is a calypso singing
duke ellington was the baddest.

and remember, i can be white.

i understand the exodus
jim crow.
the civil rights movement.

i am the back row.
like in the grocery store
i cannot buy alpha bits
or raisin bran or cheerios
i can only buy special k.
monk, he can buy what he wants,
i let him do the talking.
i tell him i am only sitting here
because my father sat here
and his father and his father
and my mother sat here
and her mother and her mother

and when i was a young kid
my best friends in tennis camp
were two jewish boys
they told me their parents had been
civil rights workers in the 60’s.

they are here on
me, monk,
charlie parker, bernard malamud
and allan ginsberg,

we slowly
we hear from
our professors
some beboppers
who think they
can translate
equal protection
clause into ebonics
and schwerner
don’t disappear into
that hot
night in 1964;

they made it back home

grew up,

became lawyers.


for my mother

“good night and good luck…”
—Edward R. Morrow

my mother laughing at government men.
my father has taken a new job.

w/ folders & documents they are telling my mother
she married karl marx or engels. this is the source
of her chuckling.

my father vladmir lenin. my father, author of the
communist manifesto.
my mother must have typed it, disseminated
copies to the workers of the world; today, she
would have e-mailed it as an attachment.

but this is 1955, comrade, &
my father’s whole family is trying to
laugh about it too.

they are paul robeson, dubois
langston hughes or dashiell hammett
insisting upon handcuffs rather than
a microphone.

is your father karl marx?
they ask all of them. how do you
spell “proletariat?” what brand of
cigarettes did lenin smoke?

you mean, he smoked?
i hear he quit cold turkey before he
died. & karl marx, well, comrade, didn’t
he play for the brooklyn dodgers
or something?

this is not funny. we know about your father.
a union man, baltimore, maryland; tried to organize a
few things, get people to band together in the workplace
like ants when they see a cracker fall. he reads the
people’s daily world.

your father’s a bowler, right? formed a team
& some of you were members & at the bowling
alleys you didn’t keep score, you just said – “nice shot,

my father’s sisters & brothers no longer laugh.
two of my aunts almost lost their jobs
because they could bowl. my father got
interrogated for days because he knew how to
pick up a spare.

& my uncle, a clever man on the lanes, he spent
his two year stint in the army in a kansas mess hall
being spied upon like he was KGB.

they gave my father the documents, the records,
the job. he died w/ those secrets. my father always
liked to bowl. kicked his leg out like earl anthony
on abc’s “wide world of sports” on saturday afternoons.
my mother liked to bowl too. she had a purple ball
and ate the cheap french fries with all that magnificent
heinz ketchup dripping slow.

she couldn’t stop chuckling at.
the government men that day.

october revolutions?; it is
all a bit too serious,

& karl marx,
my mother says,
i am sure he never ever played



Brian Gilmore is a poet, writer, and columnist with the Progressive Media Project. He is the author of three collections of poetry, elvis presley is alive and well and living in harlem (Third World Press, 1993), Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rags (Karibu Books, 2001), and his latest, We Didn't Know Any Gangsters (Cherry Castle, 2014). He has published in The Progressive, The Nation, The Washington Post, Book Forum, The Baltimore Sun, and Jubilat. He currently teaches at the Michigan State University College of Law. He divides his time between Michigan and his beloved birthplace, Washington, DC. To read more by this author: Brian Gilmore, Spring 2001; Brian Gilmore's Introduction to The "Woodshed" Issue, Fall 2001; Brian 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: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue; Brian Gilmore on Drum & Spear Bookstore: Literary Organizations Issue; Brian Gilmore: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue.