Gale Acuff




On the wall behind Miss Hooker’s desk hangs
Jesus Christ, I mean a dummy of Him,
nailed to the Crucifix, His hands and feet,
and looking as if He’s really dead but
as she tells us and tells us every
Sunday, Miss Hooker I mean, Jesus rose
from the dead on the third day, that would be
Easter, I think, and on Good Friday He
gave up the ghost and then they took Him down
and, I guess, cleaned Him up a little and
then put Him in His tomb and even stopped
it up by rolling a stone for a door
in front but still He escaped, not that they
didn’t want Him to but didn’t expect
that He’d manage. I think that it’s funny

in a serious sort of way how He
astonished ’em. And it’s funny again
that I can just look at the Cross and then
the good story kind of retells itself
or at least I’m reminded all at once
of the thing. In Sunday School yesterday
I fell asleep for a moment and dreamt
that I saw Jesus open His eyes and
blink a couple of times and look down at
Miss Hooker, who was going on about
the Sermon on the Mount, Beatitudes
and so on, but the next thing I knew she
called on me and woke me and commanded
that I say the Lord’s Prayer for us all
before we left our portable building
for home, so I rose and bowed my head but
couldn’t even remember the very
first word, but I stole a second look at
Jesus and of course His eyes were closed, which
gave me a world of confidence, don’t ask
me why except maybe dying’s truer
to life than living is. Amen to that.




After Sunday School today I gave my
heart to Miss Hooker, my teacher, I mean
the part of my heart that I didn’t give
to God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost,
that part that goes to the woman to be
my wife one day, when I’m old enough, not
just 10 like I am right now, 10 to her
25. So she’ll have to wait a while
until I’ve grown up into a real man,
a few more years anyway and meanwhile
I’ll pray like Hell God will keep her single
until then, say when I’m 18 to her
33, kind of old but not so old
that she’ll be necessarily dead. How

did I give Miss Hooker my heart? After
class this morning and when all my classmates
were gone I crept back into our trailer,
our church can’t afford an expansion, and
from the doorway told Miss Hooker I was
declaring for her, my love that is, and
that she could make me the happiest man
in the world even though I’m still a boy.
She laughed out loud, which I think is a sin,
in Sunday School anyway, but then said
I’m flattered, Gale, but remind me when you’re
a shade older. As if she could forget.




In church today I fell asleep and that’s
a sin most likely and on my way
out when Preacher stands at the door to shake
everybody’s hand including mine and
I’m just ten years old, he took mine in his
and squeezed so tightly, and winked as well, that
I shouted Damnation, which made us all

silent, and for a couple of moments
downright peaceful. My folks don’t come to church
so I didn’t get in trouble, they hang
in the kitchen for hours after they’ve slept
late, and when I get home from church for lunch
I fix it for us all. So I slithered

out of church and ran all the way home, home
where if I’m not happy at least I’m safe,
and came breathing hard into the kitchen,
my folks smoking Kents and sipping Yuban
and not even looking up to see who
caused all the commotion. I went upstairs
to my room to change out of my Sunday

clothes and came down to break eggs and make toast
and fry bacon and after I served them,
served my parents lunch I mean, I revealed

what happened on my way out of the service
–Father said that I have a demon and
Mother said that I could try a new church
as long as I was willing to walk there
and even Jesus carried His own cross
and they didn’t have to drive me and she
doesn’t drive anyway and a church where
nobody knows me and I can start fresh,

as if God and Jesus and the Holy
Ghost don’t know who I am but maybe they
don’t so how could I myself? It was good.



The Life to Come

At Sunday School they tell me you never
know when you’re going to die, it could be
anytime and then you’re gone, so they take
your body and bury it, and then there’s
your soul, which hangs out with the body ’til
Judgment Day, I guess, the end of the world
is that? and if you haven’t sinned too much
or at least not on purpose you go to
Heaven but if it’s vice versa then it’s
Hell. If I died right now and only at
ten years old I’d go to the bad place for
certain so I’d better get my young ass
saved before it’s too late, I mean get my
soul saved so that I don’t wind up in Hell
and burn forever. After Sunday School
I stayed late to ask our teacher just who
made everything this way and what was he
not thinking, or she. Miss Hooker said, Read
your Bible, Gale, or at least your workbook,
this is what we’ve been talking about, it’s
all there. Yes ma’am, I said, and Goodbye, too,
because I’m never going back, not next
week, not never. Not until death’s done with.


Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Concho River Review, Worcester Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Arkansas Review, Carolina Quarterly, Poem, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. He has 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), and has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.