I DIDN’T SPEAK AT THE FUNERAL
My father was a Man of God.
My father was a liberal,
pot smoking hippie who cursed like a sailor
and knew two dozen ways to kill a man
with his bare hands—my father was a pastor.
And he had a white-knuckled grip on faith that
I do not fully understand, but
he preached gospel like
him and Jesus were old buddies who
snuck out and went drinking together—
the bail-each-other-out-of-jail kind of friends.
He held hands and broke bread;
he had a way of making a
congregation feel like a family.
He believed in heaven
more surely than I have
ever believed in anything.
My father was just a man.
He had a lot of rage in him.
And when the pills stacked higher
than the pages of a hymnal, he
went looking for god with a spade
and a shovel, he
dug the gospel out of me. Tell me,
what do you call a washed up preacher
too sick and feeble to do the lord’s bidding?
Well. I don’t know what you’d call him, but
I called him Dad.
He had a lot of names for me and
one of them was Ungrateful but
it was hard to be thankful for
the shaking shadow of all the things
my father used to be. See,
my father was a sickness
in a suit of skin. Some days, he
was more pain than person and
he made sure we all knew about it.
I did not grow up in a quiet home.
There was no room for heaven at
the kitchen table, we
had to save a seat for
Pain and one for Loss and
two for all his medications.
They say absence makes the heart
grow fonder and
my relationship with my father
made a lot more sense
after I lost him.
Death makes a space for forgiveness.
There’s lots of space in my parent’s house
I was never on first name basis with
my dad’s idea of god, but for all that
hurting he held in his hands,
my father was a good man.
Even if he was hard to live with.
And he was hard to live with. Dad,
I am still learning how to forgive you.
I’m getting better at it. But you
were an angry, stubborn son-of-a-bitch and
I guess that runs in the family. And sometimes
it’s fucking infuriating to take after someone
you want to be mad at but
I am my father’s daughter. And
I always have been.
And, if your god is up there, then
I hope he’s playing old blues,
smoking Marlboro reds—
telling dirty jokes and singing
hand-me-down gospel with you.
By Ashe Vernon
Ashe Vernon is a produced playwright, an actor, and a poet. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, but found poetry when she most needed it. She recently graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in theatre and gender studies. Before she hits the job market with her oh-so-impressive fine arts degree, Ashe is spending the summer on tour doing spoken word with her best friend and partner in crime. Her first book of poetry, Belly of the Beast, was published by Words Dance Publishing and her second, Wrong Side of a Fist Fight, will be coming out through Where Are You Press, this July. She spends most of her time writing her way out of dark places, and looking to the stars. Ashe has featured in venues across Texas, such as The Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, Nacogdoches Literary Readings, and Love Jonz Spoken Jazz, in Duncanville. She has placed first at WriteAboutNow in Houston and her work has been published in Word Dance Magazine, and volumes one and two of the Literary Sexts anthologies. Ashe has no concept of the term “inside-voice” and spends every waking hour with her giant bear-cub of a cat. She plans on moving to a big city and covering herself with tattoos. It’s going pretty well, so far.