purple rain (for g.j.)
by Brian Gilmore
my roommate wants to be marlin
perkins on mutual of omaha’s wild
kingdom; or jacques cousteau
the french deep sea diver who
was cooler than ron o’neal
dealing cocaine in superfly.
my roommate and i both want to live and
die at the same time. we share this world
view as if we were born on the same
date, in washington d.c., uptown,
raised on cherry smash soda pop, bonton
cheese popcorn, bologna sandwiches, sweet
potato pie, and am radio mc’d by bobby bennett.
my roommate is white from annapolis; my
mother grew up with dinah washington
singing “you go to my head”
right through her kitchen window
while her mother stacked homemade
buttermilk biscuits next to green
beans and bacon.
one night my roommate and i were coming home
from the prince purple rain concert on a dark mountain
road. a car began coming at us going at least 100
miles per hour. these were the days where he and i
would invite the entire student body to our dorm room
and try to consume all of the rum ever distilled on
the island of puerto rico.
we both grabbed the wheel of his car
that night, blew the horn until we
were back in our room at the dorm laughing and
talking to each other in the dark of our beds
until the stench from the morning paper mill
forced our eyes to close.
this is what we did every night
of the week. this is when i found
out why he wanted to chase
zebras across remote regions of
the earth or study the feeding
habits of crocodiles and be paid
i never ever tell him what i
want to do. i really have no idea.
most days i just listen to prince
sing about 1999 and judgment
day and read rolling stone magazine
articles about how the government
is killing people in central america.
our room is full of iron city beer, crazy b-52 songs,
ronrico rum and mixed up young white kids
who all want to die.
they remind me and my roommate each
and every night when we talk in the dark
that what we want to do
Brian Gilmore is a poet, writer, and public interest lawyer who
currently teaches in the Clinical Law Program at the Howard
University School of Law in Washington, D.C. He is the author of
two collections of poetry, elvis presley is alive and well and living
in harlem (Third World Press of Chicago, 1993) and Jungle Nights
and Soda Fountain Rags: Poem for Duke Ellington (Karibu
Books, 2000). Gilmore has been widely published in poetry
anthologies and journals, and he is a regular columnist with the
Progressive Media Project. His poetry, essays, reviews, and other
writings have appeared in The Washington Review, Icarus, The
Red Brick Review, The Bridge, The Washington Post, The
Baltimore Sun, The Detroit Free Press, The Charlotte Observer,
The Buffalo News, The Rochester Democrat, The Nation, The
Utne Reader, Jazz Times, Jazz and Blues, and many other national
and local publications. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., and a
graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School, he currently resides in
Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife and three daughters.
On “purple rain”:
The poem is really dedicated to one of my roommates in college.
He and I had such a nice time together even though we were
roommates for only like 6 months. The poem is one of those
fatalistic moments that stuck with me for years. Prince was an
artist that represented living life full and all the way; that is what
those 6 months with him were like—incredibly enriching and life
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 2, Number 1
Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors