Monday, January 5, 2015

Brian Gilmore's revolution (for my father)

Brian Gilmore is a poet about whom Peter Harris is speaking when he says that he values those poets who do not elevate themselves above the work, itself. I recently had the privilege of attending one of Brian's poetry readings. He read one touching poem about his father, a different one is copied below. I wonder if Brian is capable of writing a poem that does not touch my heart.

my father was a dictator.

in 1968 dad suspended the house
instituted a state of emergency
suspended any rights television
made us think we had.
he declared tarzan a fake
nat turner important
malcolm x a brother
we must understand.

it was strange this regime
always looming like lightning
during a thunderstorm, but never
to harm, though we know the sky
is no friend of careless boys
who sometimes end up
walking home in the rain.

often my brother and I rebelled against
this totalitarian despot.
we declared civil war by
staying out until 4 or 5 a.m.

el presidente would be awake
when we returned,
calm in his demeanor, greeting us with
one of those well-prepared speeches,
like castro.

this constant pounding on our brains made us
surrender eventually, and end our unrest after
nearly 20 years of disorganized resistance.
the will of this monarch
became our will:
like, “you will go to school.”
“you will not destroy your life.”

now when I stop by my father’s house
the state of emergency is over
the revolution he declared was successful
the laws he passed are no longer in need
of enforcement.

these presidential duties
are exclusively mine now
and if
i am ever lucky enough to become
a dictator
i shall not hesitate
to crush tarzan and
give really long speeches
another language.

for Julie

My warrior ranges
without me;
moves herself onward,
before my messages arrive.

Dauntless, magnificent,
but the wounds of warriors
are never washed away
and, in time, magnify.

Dreaming, I hurry
to catch her on her way,
but often I am lagging
and her wild signs grow faint.

Still, there are the days
I come upon her;
briefly tend her wounds
and share a bit of pain.

When next she’s off again,
it will be so very long
before I can say once more
rest here, let me love you now.