The story of my uncle who’d been shot in the knee
at Southern Railway
got complicated by the way in which Mama was telling it
while we boxed up my grandma’s dresses
after her open-casket funeral. Then the same story of how he
the trainyard where he happened to be working
a twelve-hour shift and rolling a joint with a Zig-Zag as sheer
as Bible paper
prior to the bullet smashing his bone
got complicated by the picture on the Zig-Zag’s orange booklet.
Years later that cover with some French guy’s face on it
reminded me of my bearded uncle
and looked like a Rastafarian Jesus
whose smirk and tiny rigid hands holding papers and a cigarette
freaked me out while under the hypnotic
gris-gris of liquid acid.
Yet the obvious question of the next story is
what did my uncle do with the money from the railroad?
Didn’t he get rich quick
with his pension and a monthly disability check?
My uncle high-tailed it outta there, all right; he left New Orleans
in a 90-foot schooner he named
The Tabitha C
sailing right through the Bermuda Triangle on a dare
exploring the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands,
Cuba, the Dominican Republic
and all those other islands named St. something or other.
My uncle, captain of his world,
King of the Bermuda Triangle
and his shenanigans are the stuff of high-falutin’ storytelling
and madman quests in epic poetry.
But how much are you willing to bet that my uncle having learned how to con
from his Carni father
didn’t pay the gunman and stage getting shot at Southern Railway
as a way of giving the finger to another Uncle
so he wouldn’t have to work ever again
for chump change?
Can I say that all con-artists are made out of cotton-candy and
and bittersweet memories about how to spit-shine boots, make the bed every morning at 5 a.m.,
dismantle a gun and shave a perfect crew-cut?
And what about the story about the time my uncle showed me a sticky brick
sealed in a ziploc bag
he hid in the backroom of my grandma’s house
and how he laughed at me for not knowing
what weed looked like
at twelve-years old?
Will I ever be like my uncle, free and flouting authority, letting my freak flag fly high
and conning the government into giving me the American Dream
or smoking spliffs and dead reckoning my way
on a house boat
paid off with cold hard cash?
And isn’t that the story of the great unknown?
And doesn’t it begin with a mystery? And, moreover, doesn’t it end
with a feeling that stuns like a bullet?
And is that feeling a thing that you hunt in the wild
And if you find and kill it
mount it on a wall and tell stories about it
to remember it existed?