Monday 31 January 2022

Five Sublime Poems by Gale Acuff


When the world ends I guess I will, too, but


my Sunday School teacher says nix, the Earth

will end but not the world, the world's the Earth

plus at least one human being and I

guess I don't doubt her, she's 25 and

I'm only 10 and she and her husband

just opened their second carwash in town

so they must be making money and that's

good if you're not selfish with it like they\

swear at church and wouldn't it be funny

if I was Judas, or is that were, and

got resurrected and showed up with my

thirty pieces of silver and plunked it

down when the collection plate rolled my way

like the Baptist's head? I'd pay to see that. 



One day when I'm dead you'll be sorry I


tell my Sunday School teacher, who asks me

Sorry for what, Gale? I'll be sorry if

you didn't get saved but live in Hell in

-stead of Heaven, which is what's going to

happen, you know, so I stomp out of our

trailer-classroom and my boots echo through

the floor like wrestlers at the school gym

on Saturday nights, on the hollow mat

I mean, but by the time I hit the ply

-wood porch they're just the dull thuds of real

-ity you might say and then I almost

fall down the double two-by-four steps to

the concrete slab below, Hell if I'm a

fallen angel. But somehow she saves me. 



One day you're dead so they tell me at church


and Sunday School and the next you're alive

forever, and even eternally,

which is longer than forever maybe

or wider and/or deeper but how they

know all this I'm none too sure, is it all

in the Good Book? And anyway who has

died and come back to life who wasn't in

stories, whether Superman or Jesus?

I asked my Sunday School teacher today

if she's ever kicked and been returned to

life and she smiled and winked and answered Oh,

I'll never tell, but one day when I'm gone

for good I expect to carry on so

I just said Yes ma'am--I expect you will.



I don't want to die, not that I'm happy


being alive, it's the quality of

life that counts, I guess, and anyway I'm

only ten years old and after failing

my last quiz in fourth grade I wanted to

kill myself, I wanted to kill myself

by jumping out at just the right moment

of a Cessna and dropping down on our

church steeple to spear myself but good for

keeps--I wonder if it would be a sac

-rifice or merely making myself ex

-pire, which would surely fetch me Hell so I

asked my Sunday School teacher this morning

after class but then she fled down the hall

to the restroom and hit the door running.



Everybody goes to Heaven they say


at the church across the street, I mean that

at the church across the street they say that

everybody goes to Heaven--any

-way nobody goes to Hell is what it

is but at our church, across the street from

theirs, of course, we can go to Hell, too, we

offer folks a choice, I guess, I said so

to my Sunday School teacher this morning

but she said Shush, Gale, Hell's not a wise choice

at all so I said Yes ma'am, but it just

seems fair that way and she started to smile 

but then caught herself about midway, like

Earth is to Hell and Heaven maybe, and

turned pleasure into plain. On the face of it.

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in AscentReed, Journal of Black Mountain College Studies, The Font, Chiron Review, PoemAdirondack Review, Florida ReviewSlantArkansas Review, South Dakota ReviewRoanoke Review, and many other journals in a dozen countries. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.     

He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.







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