Two Poems – Gale Acuff

church
Photo: Robin Spielmann

Half-Circle

I got sick at Sunday School today—threw
up outside our portable building when
we got to that part in the Good Book where
Jesus raised up Lazarus from the dead.
I don’t want to die at all but when I
do I want to stay dead or I’ll scare Hell
out of everyone when I get up
on my feet again and all covered with dirt
and maybe blood and guts, depending how
I kick. And for breakfast all I had
was Tang and cornflakes and they came up all
over the spring-green grass where the spigot
leaks by the front porch, that’s as far as I
got before I vomited. If my dog
had been there he would’ve lapped it up but
I would’ve stopped him though still he’d try. I
asked Miss Hooker after class—she let me
sit on the porch while class was going on
without me sitting in our half-circle
(she’s my teacher and a lot to look at,
red hair and green eyes and freckles) if I
would go to Hell for getting sick in class
and she said, No, no, that I had gotten
the demons out, meaning Tang and cornflakes
I guess, and I forgot the milk, maybe
it had soured, it came up, too. My stomach
was naked—empty I mean, naked is
a sin, I think, especially at church,
they don’t even bury dead folks that way.
I usually walk home but this time
Miss Hooker drove me after Sunday School,
it’s not far, a little less than a mile.
When we stopped in the driveway I got sick
all over again, but it was just love
that made me start to dry-heave and all that
came forth was air. Still, I got out of there
fast and barely said goodbye but I’ll get
my place in Heaven, Miss Hooker felt it
too, even if she’s 25 to my
10, and now I’m afraid to go back next
Sunday with her in my soul instead of
God but I think that’s how babies get made
and without them we wouldn’t have people
and no one else would ever rise again,
in Heaven at least, and live like angels
forever and never get hungry and
never hurl. And all because God hates us.

Simple

In Sunday School today Miss Hooker said that if
we have an enemy we should love him.
Or her. And if he wants to take our cloak,
to let him. Whatever a cloak is. Or
her. And to give him our coat, also. Or
her again. She says that Jesus said so
and He’s the Son of God. That’s good enough
for me, I guess. No wonder they killed Him.
They didn’t get away with it because
He rose from the dead. It took three days. Me,
if I had to rise from the dead, without
any help from God, I mean, I’d still be
trying to rise at the end of the world.
I’m small for my age. 10. Miss Hooker says
—and she’s our teacher and she ought to know
—that when I die my soul goes to Heaven
to be judged. She says that in our church that we

don’t think the soul just hangs around until
Judgement Day but that it goes lickety
-split to Heaven. I guess it hardly has
the time to know that it’s not still inside
a body. It shows up at God’s throne and
He asks an angel to pass Him the Book
of Life and the angel obeys, that means
he does what he’s told, or she, and God looks
through the Book and hunts up the name and if
He finds it you get to stay in Heaven
but if He don’t—doesn’t—you go to Hell.
She says it’s that simple. I wonder if

God wears glasses. He’s older than Father and
Grandfather and all the folks who’ve ever
lived and ever will. That’s powerfully
old. Miss Hooker says that we need to pray
everyday to be forgiven for our
many sins. I don’t think I have many
but I’ve been wrong before, about plenty
of things. Like the one about the screen door
on that submarine to keep out the fish.
That made sense to me. It keeps out the bugs
at our house. But a screen door in a sub,
that’s short for submarine, would let the sea

Then the sailors would drown. They’re sailors
even though they’re underwater. Well, not
underwater all the time. But on land
are they still sailors? I rest my case. When

Sunday School’s almost over Miss Hooker
tells one of us to say the Lord’s Prayer
and we all say it along with him. Or
her. This morning was my turn. I stumbled
because I was thinking about the screen
door on that submarine. It might work out
when the sub isn’t underwater but
floating on the top. It would keep out birds.
Then there may be a fish who likes to leap

out of the water and back in again.
In that case he’d bounce right off it. Or she.
So I guess that I’m not entirely wrong,
entirely means completely. Only sin
is entirely wrong, and I never pray
to be forgiven for being stupid.
If I die in being-stupid I won’t
go to Hell. If I die in sin, I will.
Someone might say that sinning is stupid
but they’re just mincing hares. Hares is rabbits.


gale_acuff

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals, and 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). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.