Sunday, June 18, 2017

Poetry By Gale Acuff On Father's Day 2017

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

Reading Lips

                                 Matthew 22:30

Above the roof and therefore the ceiling
of course is the air but somewhere up there
in the topmost layer, the topmost of
the air that is is Heaven and in Sun
-day School our teacher tells us, Miss Hooker's
her name, that if we want to go there one
day and not just go but live there and not
just live there but dwell there then we children
had best believe that Jesus is the Son
of God and was crucified for our sins
and not just our sins but our manifold
sins, and then that way when we're dead we'll be
in one of the mansions in Heaven, one
per customer you might say, children and
grownups, too, Miss Hooker's 25 so
she qualifies if she's taken away
before her natural time, whatever that
is, old age I guess, and I'm only 10
but what works for her will work for me and
then when we're both dead we'll be the same age
--that's not in the Bible and Miss Hooker
didn't say it, it just came to me, like
a revelation, The Revelation
to Gale you might say, it came to me just
about when we were finishing class by
reciting the Lord's Prayer a second
time, right before the Amen we holler
all of us together like one great big

voice--maybe it's the voice of God Himself
--so after class I hung back and then helped
Miss Hooker get her gear together, her
Bible and the hymnals and our crayons
and paper and then I walked her to her
International Harvester pickup
and then told her about my revelation
and told her that if I never marry
on Earth, maybe because I'll be dead, I'll
marry in Heaven and she'll be the wife
to my husband and the other way a
-round and she laughed but not mockingly
and leaned over to kiss me on my fore
-head and I guess it kissed her back, that's what
I call a miracle but anyway
after she pulled away from the suction
and straightened up again and looked at me
as if it was too bad that I'm so young
I said, I'm sorry that you're so old, and
then we held hands or maybe it was shook
them, sometimes it's hard to tell when your soul,
your immortal soul, is on the line. Then
Miss Hooker unlocked her door and climbed in
while I looked away because after all
women can be funny about rear ends,
at least their own, and then she shut the door,
which sort of startled me to looking up
to see her face shining down on me or
maybe it was just too much makeup in
the morning sun and she mouthed Goodbye
and I'll see you next Sunday and I aped her
and then she drove off. Who needs ears to hear?

                                           --Gale Acuff

Poet Gale Acuff


Other children have picked through all the good
comic books here at the Rex-All Drug Store
and I'm left standing like a spinner rack
that isn't being spun. Still, I spin it

clockwise and counterclockwise again and
again but it always stops at nothing
I want. Most of the superheroes are
gone--what's left is Archie and those funny
animals and a few war comics. But

I want heroes in spandex though I don't
know that word too well--tights, I guess I mean.
In masks and capes--the heroes, not the tights.
Gloves and boots and utility belts and
custom cars and secret identities
and hideouts. It's 1965 and

I've just finished supper with my parents,
next door, at the cafeteria, where
they gave me my allowance--a quarter,
which will buy two comic books at twelve cents
each, and a penny for tax, but I can't
find even one magazine I like, and
we don't drive into town too often--once 
a month, if I'm lucky, and it's too far
to walk. I'm not leaving emptyhanded,
though--it just isn't fair. And I believe

in justice, because this is what heroes
ought to be fighting for, a little boy
in Marietta, Georgia, and littler
because his folks are teachers and so his
family's poor. He sleeps in the attic
and there's no central heating in the house
and no air conditioning in summers.

His parents teach those snotty kids whose folks
have good jobs at Lockheed and the Air Force
base in Smyrna. And they have basements, and
TVs in their bedrooms, and hi-fi's, and
brick houses and garages and carports
and more than just one car to park in there
and new shoes whenever they want them and
meat for supper everyday. And dogs
--not for supper, I mean, but to love them.
Cats. Tropical fish. Hamsters and gerbils.

So they're evil, but in a way beyond
me. Or I'm jealous because they have more
but I know how they treat their comic books
--they fold the pages back, dog-ear them, or
throw them away when they're finished. I save
mine, in a box in my closet. God loves

us all, I hear at church. I fall asleep
in the pew sometimes and dream of money
but wake to the plate being passed around.
Death will make us equal in the end--he's
my hero, I guess, although he scares me.
And when we all start off new in Heaven

maybe they'll be my friends, even tell me
Gee whiz, it wasn't our fault that our folks
made more money than yours, or that we had Spyder
bikes and Beatle boots and color TVs
and German Shepherds and slot-car racetracks 
--won't you please forgive us? I'll make them wait
and I can't get too upset because God
might deport me, but if His back is turned

I'll give it to them good: You laughed at me
and made fun of my clothes and our house and
our car and the lunches Mother packed me
in brown bags when you had cool lunchboxes
and how long it took me to learn to tie
my shoes and blow bubblegum and catch balls.
And I'd tell them all to go we-know-where
but it's too late now and serves us all right.

Before I leave the rack I spin it one
last time. I'll never see it stop, even
slow. I'm going to find my parents, who
are looking for sales at Rich's, next door.
I hate to say it but they're my heroes.
I'd tell them but I don't want to scare them.

                                            --Gale Acuff

Family Drama

Miss Hooker's my Sunday School teacher but
almost every night she's my wife, I mean
in my dreams. Last night we were on the couch
watching TV. I had my arm around
my dog on my right side and her on my
left, so she was closest to my heart. That's
love. Bonanza we watched, those Cartwright boys,
Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe, and father
Ben, of course, and when we have kids they'll be
sons and we'll name 'em for them, unless they're
daughters, which are as good though we'll need new
names but Miss Hooker's smart, she'll think of some.
I don't know where babies come from yet but
she's a good teacher and can demonstrate
and I'll take careful notes and use them 'til
I've got the procedure memorized. Then
I'll throw the notes away. I think it helps

to sleep in the same room, like my folks do,
and in the same bed, and to close the door,
then lock it, and put something over the key
-hole so nobody can see in. It must
be dark, too, even nighttime, and you'd be
surprised at how much just one eye can take
in squinting when the whole house is dark, not
that I ever really tried. I take it
back--lying's a sin but to be fair I
couldn't see anything. But my ears did
and it was laughter, Mother giggling or
maybe it was Father. It's a good thing
I didn't ask them about that next day
or I'd have given myself away. I
guess I just want to know where I come from.
If I'm going to marry Miss Hooker

I need to know. Some dreams you can't trust so
if I dream again tonight we're married
and she shows me how to make a baby
how will I know she's not putting me on?
Then sooner or later you fall asleep
after you shake hands and kiss each other's
lips, all four of them, not once or twice
but half a million times is my best guess.
Then I guess the sun comes up and you wake
to the sound of someone crying and that's
the beginning of your family. Funny
how it commences with crying. Maybe
death ends it that way, too--I know even
less about that but I will in time but
first I have to be old enough to be
too old to live and that's only if I
don't die some other way before then, get
run over or struck by lightning or choke

on a corn dog at the county fair. When
Bonanza's over we ride off to bed,
my dog and Miss Hooker and I. I get
as far as turning out the bedroom light
and trying to find our bed in the darkness
but before I can shake her hand good night
let alone kiss her it's morning and she's
gone and just my dog lying beside me.
It's like we're separated once a day,
I mean Miss Hooker and me. It hurts but
at least it isn't real, only the ache.
One day I'll be old enough to have both.
Then I'll be grown up. I'll drive and shave, too,
and have a deep voice and a lot of hair
in goofy places. I hope she won't laugh.

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