Four Poems

by Gale Acuff

Plywood

One day I’ll be dead and then I’ll know it
all, why I lived and the meaning of life
that is, all the things I can’t know now be
-cause I’m still alive, How’s that for funny

I asked Miss Hooker, she’s my Sunday School
teacher, after class this morning. You’re right,
Gale, she replied, God will explain all things
to you when you see Him in Heaven to

be judged for how you lived on earth and I
hope that you’re saved by then so that you won’t
spend Eternity in Hell, forget that
Jesus died so that you wouldn’t have to

because if you don’t believe that Jesus
is the Son of God you’ll doom yourself to
endless Perdition. I said, Yes ma’am, but
wherever I might go, Heaven or Hell,

will I still get to know why everything
is the way it is and why I’ve been go
-ing through it and for that matter why I
was born? Miss Hooker said, Let’s take it to

the Lord in prayer, so on the plywood
floor of our portable building we kneeled
knelt I mean (I wonder if God knows that)
and went through the Lord’s Prayer for the third

time that morning and then Miss Hooker steered
us towards asking God Almighty to
help stop me from wasting His time with fool
-ish questions but to strike me down dead though

not really dead but dead enough–stunned?–to
wake up again but this time see the light.
Amen, we said together, and then rose
but only to our natural height and

since I didn’t know what to say I kissed
Miss Hooker but the way a husband would,
on the cheek but with a little pressure
but she’s 25 to my 10 and then

I turned away and went out the door with
-out saying anything nor looking back
to see her face or the impression made
by my lips on her skin. This must be death.

Swear

Someday I’ll never go to Sunday School
because by then Ill be dead and I hope
in Heaven and if not there then in Hell
but at least Ill be somewhere, I mean my
immortal soul, as Miss Hooker calls it,
she means that it will live forever and
long after my body’s rotted away
and I’m only ten years old and could live
to be 100, somebody’s got to,
she says, Why not you, Gale, but still that will
be nothing to living eternally.
Miss Hooker’s 25 and single and
if she can wait until I’m a man then
we’ll have babies but we’ll get marred first,
if she’ll have me, and every night I pray
that God will out her aside for only
me and if He’ll do that then when it’s time
for me to die and I know about it
I won’t cry, I swear. But of course some folks
die without knowing that they will, God takes
them in some way and for some reason and

they find themselves lining up in Heaven
waiting to meet God, Who will judge them. I
ask Miss Hooker sometimes why Jesus died
if not to guarantee I get to go
dwell with Him up yonder, Heaven I mean,
why after His Crucifixion I still
might go to Hell. If you sin and know it,
she says, His sacrifice is null, and if
you don’t believe that He’s the Son of God,
and there are many ways to disrespect
Him, then you must go to Hell and burn and
burn forever. Miss Hooker always smiles
when she sets the record straight, which is nice
of her but in her place I’m not so sure
I could. And sometimes I want to kiss her
and usually on the lips. Amen.

Body

At Sunday School I learn I have to die
one day, which was news to me, I wanted
to live forever though not at ten years
old but until I ran out of numbers
or at least almost. After Sunday School
I asked our teacher how she knows so much
about life and she replied, Well, Gale, I
am 25, which is pretty damned old
or old enough to know something by then,
even the Son of God didn’t live for
-ever, I guess, though His was sacrifice

and I’d have to have some fun for many
years before I could do what He did, and
Miss Hooker tells me that Jesus died so
I wouldn’t have to, my soul anyway,
and I told her that I want my body
in on Eternity, too, and she said
that if I dwell in Heaven when I’m dead
I’ll have a new one. And if I go to
Hell? I asked. You’ll be tortured to the bone
she said, whether you have a new one or
no. I said, I see. But I don’t. But I do.

 

Jonah

I don’t love God anymore because He
won’t make Miss Hooker younger so I can
marry her, she’s my Sunday School teacher
and 25 to my 10 and I want
a miracle to even our ages
up so every night I pray in the name
of Jesus (when I don’t slip up and pray
in the name of Miss Hooker) to have her
and me rise the very next day the same
score, 18 would be good, halfway between
Miss Hooker’s years and mine but so far no
dice. So my plan is not to love God and
maybe break His heart enough to let me
have what I desire, how can I hurt Him
or even Miss Hooker or me? But then

God knows everything, He can read my mind,
He’s always at least a step ahead, He
knows what I’m up to but I don’t know what
else to do. Maybe He’s getting on in
years Himself and will forget but of course
Miss Hooker has to go and say that He’s
the same forever and for that matter
so’s Jesus. So after class today I
just told Miss Hooker that I adore her
and that someday she’ll be my wife though now
I don’t even shave, of course. Thank you, Gale,
she said–she smiled beatifically,
I stole that word from Preacher John’s sermon,
but I would’ve been happier if she’d
grinned instead. There’s a whale of a difference.


Gale Acuff  has had poetry published in AscentOhio JournalDescant, PoemAdirondack ReviewCoe ReviewWorcester ReviewMary land Poetry Review, Arkansas ReviewFlorida ReviewSouth Carolina ReviewCarolina QuarterlySouth Dakota ReviewSequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. I have authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).
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