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Dreams of My Father

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Or a man who looks like him.
I only know I call him Daddy
(as all southern women
do until the day we die).
In my dreams he is still alive
and this is not a comfort.
I am my best when tragic.
Grief becomes me.
Daddy is more real in death,
eyes dark, undimmed
by the grave, smile less sincere.
Matter clings to his thick
eyebrows, his mouth spits mud
when he tries to talk. He is candid.
He tells me he liked my sisters better than me.
Most times I search for him in a crowd
of counterfeit Daddies.
I look for pieces of him.
An elbow. Black hair on the back
of a pale neck. If I find him,
I will say, Is that you?
I know you this time.

Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, “Dreams of My Father” from The Gospel of Barbecue. Copyright © 2000 by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers.  Reprinted by permission of The Kent State University Press.
Source: The Gospel of Barbecue (2000)
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Dreams of My Father

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  • Honorée Fanonne Jeffers was born in 1967 and grew up in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. Her work examines culture, religion, race, and family. Her first book, The Gospel of Barbecue (2000), won the Stan and Tom Wick poetry prize and was a 2001 Paterson Poetry prize finalist. Her collections also include Outlandish Blues (2003), Red Clay Suite (2007), which received second prize in the Crab Orchard Review’s open competition, and The Glory Gets (2015).
    Jeffers’s poetry has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Callaloo, the Iowa Review, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has been anthologized in numerous volumes, including Roll Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art (2002) and These Hands I Know: Writing About the African American Family (2002). Jeffers has also published fiction in the Indiana Review, the Kenyon Review, the New England Review, and Story Quarterly.
    The recipient of honors from...

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