Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Phil Woods' poem "The Klan in Colorado"

The University of Denver long owned the Phipps Mansion, donated by one of Denver’s wealthy families, and the Graduate School of International Studies used to have an early evening reception there for beginning students.

I always made it a point to tell people the story of how Senator Lawrence Phipps was a Klansmen (it was openly an upper class organization in Colorado when it reigned in the 20s and early 30s during its second wave…).

Phil Woods sent me a poem about his family, the Klan in Colorado and the resistance to it. For a poem about slavery and "Blind Willie Mctell," see here.


THE KLAN IN COLORADO

How many blacks even lived
In Colorado in the Twenties?
Yet WASPS went bananas.
Got to keep these damned Catholics
& brown & black people down.
Got to keep America pure.
So they marched in their hoods
Through downtown Denver.
Elected a member governor.
Had the mayor as a fellow traveler.
Burned crosses all up & down
the front range.
Old timers remember the flames
on Ruby Hill,
On the mesa above the Coors plant
The fiery cross lit the night sky.
But then came the push back.
Ten thousand marched from
Regis University to Arvada.
Said No to burning churches
& tearing up the Bill of Rights.
The mayor was a smooth operator.
Knew just when to change sides
When a different wind
Started to blow.

But in 2012 the Romero Troupe,
Just for fun & justice,
Ridiculed the secret hand shake
& the pointy hats at the steel worker's hall
Down in Pueblo. At intermission
My dad's half-sister
Told me a story I never knew.
She said when her father,
My grandfather Melvin,
Moved into the house
On the St. Charles Mesa,
Just east of the Mafia nightclub--
The Silver Moon—and the
Broken smelter ruins
Where my father stumbled
On a still & an irate Dago guard
Who told him to get the hell
out of there.
Yes, this modest house with
Chicken coops & a barn
Also had a basement.
With two abandoned crosses.
My other grandfather-- a Celt
With Scottish & Irish
Catholic blood had a devil
Of a time getting on with
The fire department
& just made it before
Turning forty. Even then,
The WASPS needled & raged
On him trying to force him
to quit.
It never dies out completely--
That Nativist virus.
Radio demagogues like
To stir it up for fun & profit.
Just ask Glenn Beck with
His brand new $100 million contract.
If Hitler was alive now,
Do you think he'd be on FOX?


Phil Woods

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