The Funeral Sermon

By Andrew Hudgins b. 1951 Andrew Hudgins
Almost droll
in its assault on magisterial,
my father’s funeral
sermon made me prowl,
—agitated—from bean casserole
to escarole
salad, then taco casserole,
and back all afternoon, in thrall
to Dad’s every growl,
cramped certitude, and corporal
wavering lost to shrill
cant: The pastoral
story was Dad’s own, though, frail
as it is: faith and God steamroll
death. His wife’s and daughter’s role
was to die—a trial
of faith, not cruel
so much as natural,
when the supernatural
is, as it was for him, literal.
His cloistral
withdrawal, according to the minister’s drawl,
was grace, and his temporal
forfeitures fat collateral
on eternity. It felt surreal
(can there be a funeral
without, now, the word surreal?)
to hear Dad’s stoic control
and loneliness spiral
heavenward on genial praise, real
enough for the general,
one supposes. An orchestral
hymn flared through the stereo’s cloth grill.
Cold waves over the deep water roll,
we sang, some voices shrill,
mine guttural,
my brother’s slow as a crawl—
our voices one and several,
a visceral,
not unmagisterial,

Source: Poetry (May 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2010
 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Faith & Doubt

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.