Playing Dead

By Andrew Hudgins b. 1951 Andrew Hudgins
Our father liked to play a game.   
He played that he was dead.   
He took his thick black glasses off   
and stretched out on the bed.      
He wouldn’t twitch and didn’t snore   
or move in any way.   
He didn’t even seem to breathe!   
We asked, Are you okay?   
We tickled fingers up and down   
his huge, pink, stinky feet—   
He didn’t move; he lay as still   
as last year’s parakeet.   
We pushed our fingers up his nose,   
and wiggled them inside—   
Next, we peeled his eyelids back.   
Are you okay? we cried.   
I really thought he might be dead   
and not just playing possum,   
because his eyeballs didn’t twitch   
when I slid my tongue across ’em.   
He’s dead, we sobbed—but to be sure,   
I jabbed him in the jewels.      
He rose, like Jesus, from the dead,      
though I don’t think Jesus drools.   
His right hand lashed both right and left.   
His left hand clutched his scrotum.   
And the words he yelled—I know damn well   
I’m way too young to quote ’em.

Andrew Hudgins, “Playing Dead” from Poetry (July 2005). Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (July 2005).


This poem originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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July 2005
 Andrew  Hudgins


Poet Andrew Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1951. The eldest son in a military family, Hudgins moved around the American South for much of his childhood, eventually attending Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. He earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1983. His poetry is known for its dark humor, formal control, and adept handling of voice. Hudgins’s first book, Saints and Strangers (1986), was . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Home Life, Humor & Satire, Youth, Living, Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Ballad

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