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

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