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Edison Jennings: The Klansman

An uncle of mine was in the Klan,

but I was never told his name

because the Klan was trashy,

according to my grandmama

and a clutch of aunts and nieces,

who playacted châtelaines

and spent their leisure reading

glossy magazines like Vogue,

lunching at the Garden Club

(with a glass or two of sherry),

and giving of their time and treasure

to worthy Christian charities,

but I had my suspicions,

and the uncle I suspected

was a vicious man, especially so

when drunk, though the distaff

tried to spare me family tales

of shameful late-night escapades

because they thought me sensitive,

but my granddad had the notion

to get me laid, thereby curing

that affliction—I was twelve.

We’ll go shoot dove, he said,

and afterwards, well, he knew

someone young and pretty,

and winking, cupped his hands

upon his chest, and I winked back,

dimly knowing what he meant

while he slipped me 30 dollars.

The next day I faked sick and kept

the cash along with my virginity.

And so that Georgia summer

with my mother’s family passed

while I spent the afternoons

playing in the shade of trees

or ensconced in that shadowed house,

reading Uncle Teddy’s trashy mags,

like Argosy and For Men Only.

He had a taste for lurid stories,

but no trashy Klansman, he,

just an alcoholic who found Jesus

on the wagon and stayed there

15 years until, calm as a saint,

he shot himself in his basement

at 3:00 am where he kept

my granddad’s taxidermied kills,

skins, heads, horns, and tusks,

a suburban charnel of the wild,

splattered with blood and brains.

And how did all that come about?

Did he wake up in the dark

thinking, oh hell, what’s the point?

and with no answer imminent,

go downstairs, slow and quiet

so as not to wake his wife,

to get his fancy .45, plated chrome,

ivory grips, and bang, his wife

wakes like a corpse in Revelation,

his wife who would’ve joined

the Klan if she’d had a chance

but didn’t because, as she explained,

her husband was a pussy, a mousey

little pussy, and when I asked,

“why the Klan? why not the D.A.R.?”

she said, “it’s that horrid man,

James Brown” (he lived close by)

“and all his friends—they need

to leave.” Then as if to make us

right-as-pie on all accounts,

she said, “please, you must have these,”

and handed me a hippo-footed

humidor, a scarab trapped in amber,

a lapis Buddha, and my uncle’s

fancy gun, packed with tissue

in a box, my name in sharpie

on the top, but now they’re dead,

all of them, my quiet cousin,

gay and decent docent of stories,

last to go. I sowed his ashes

on a shadowed Southern green,

a gem among the rubble, only son

of the uncle I thought might be

the Klansman, and rightly so

it seems, because beneath the bed

he died in was a suitcase filled

with pornographic photos, letters,

and a diary, and stuffed inside

a sack, a hooded robe, so frail

it tore when handled, redolent

as death, blazoned with a cross

burning inches from the heart.

Copyright 2021 Edison Jennings. First published in Blue Mountain Review. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

Edison Jennings lives in the southwestern corner of Virginia and works as a Head Start bus driver. He served thirteen years active duty in the U.S. Navy. After separation from the Navy, he completed his education and began teaching and writing. His poetry collections include Intentional Fallacies (Broadstone, 2021).

6 comments on “Edison Jennings: The Klansman

  1. Edison Jennings
    September 12, 2021

    Thank you..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Edison Jennings
    September 12, 2021

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth Peyton
    September 9, 2021

    Wow. Everything is in here. Bravo.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Beth Peyton Cancel reply

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2021 by in Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , , , .

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