~ by 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.
I love this piece for a personal reason. I am from the same generation as Hudgins, and my father, as a joke, would do the same thing. He’d lie in the middle of the living room completely immobile — apparently dead — and when we’d come upon him from our outdoors play, we’d poke him and try to discover some life in him. It must’ve been a fairly standard form of prank humor in the 1950s, I think. We’d poke and poke, and finally he’d come roaring to life and he’d scare us half to death. Funny.