An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Brass Knuckles

    Something so pleasing in their heft it's easy
    to forget how my grandfather
    used them in those days
    when everybody knew he kept
    a hundred rolled and rubberbanded
    in the pocket of his mackintosh.

    He drove this big delivery truck,
    restocking Hersheys and Pall Malls.
    And the story always shows
    my father in the back,
    sorting the endless stacks
    and filching Tootsie Rolls.

    In the haze of family lore
    it's all idyllic, even 1950s
    Birmingham: ball fields and church picnics,
    tree-lined streets
    where he'd park the panel truck.
    But somewhere under the patina

    of blackened brass, against my jaw,
    is the blood of a man
    my grandfather beat near death.
    Becawse? he chuckled when I was eight,
    I didn't like the look
    on that ol' nigger's face.

     

    Published in Chattahoochee (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2004).

    Published: 14 April 2009 © 2009 Patrick Phillips and Southern Spaces