“What I Remember as My Father Is Dying” by Beth Copeland

Beth Copeland


My sister calls it “a spanking,” but it wasn’t
a spanking. He yanked my ankles and held me

upside-down, hitting my bottom and back with
the flat of his hand like a doctor trying to force

a newborn baby to breathe, but I was nine
years old, listening to my sisters plead, “Stop,”

“Daddy, please stop,” until he dropped me
to the floor, and I ran to my room, crying.

When I tell people, they’re shocked. How could
he, they ask? What could you possibly have done

to deserve such a beating? What I don’t tell them
is that it was better being battered than being told

what a bad girl I was, so selfish, so ugly, so un-
Christian, that the brunt of his hand on my body

was a blessing because it meant my father’s sin
was greater than mine and I had been forgiven.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014


Beth Copeland: “I wrote my first poem when I was fifteen years old, a rhyming poem using synesthetic images. Of course, I had no idea what synesthesia was, but the process of writing the poem was so exhilarating that I stayed up all night writing a second poem. The next day I showed the poems to my high school English teacher who said, ‘You’re a poet!’ I’ve been a poet ever since.”

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