Volume 4 Issue 1, April 2020

Gale Acuff

Good Animals


When I die I really start to live is
what they teach me at Sunday School, I guess
they teach me, they try, not that I've learned it
yet but I guess I'll only know the truth
of it, or anything else, when I die
and see for myself what lies over yon
-der, eternal life, I mean, and God and
Jesus and the Holy Ghost and angels
and Adam and Abraham and Moses
and good dead folks I used to know, I'm just
ten years old so there won't be many of
those but maybe I'll meet luminaries,
that's a good word, I mean folks who are dead
and gone to Heaven but it was so long
ago that I hardly knew 'em but I
hope to run into a couple of pets,
dogs and cats and birds and fish and hamsters
and gerbils and white mice and a rabbit
and maybe all good animals without
sin who made it to Heaven so I can't
wait, I'd like to join them and besides that
we've got a test in regular school next
week and I don't feel like studying, I'd
rather die and go on to the good stuff
but that would mean suicide unless I'm
lucky enough to be run over or
murdered or pushed off a cliff but any
-way at church they tell me just to hang on
and read my Bible and participate like
my soul depends on it and get saved and
maybe join Boy Scouts or Future Farmers
of America or 4H but live
a clean life whatever else I do, then
hope for the best and when I die enjoy
it in the Good Place and do nothing that
will land me in the Bad. 
                                        I forgot Eve.




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

say to myself in the mirror or its

reflection anyway, maybe I will

be, sorry that is, though I'm not sure why\

yet, maybe I'll not have done all the things

I wanted to do or did some or most

of them, even, but not the one I should\

have done and I'm only ten years old now

so what do I know about the future

much less the past - the past, well, we get that

in school and as for time now, it's too much

with me for me to judge it well, like my

reflection, say, or my shadow, they're part

of me but not substantial so I fear

them, or is it me I fear? I had that


dream again last night, I in the mirror

was moving differently from me standing

in front and when the fluorescent light shone

brighter than ever I saw its shadow

or mine detach itself and move mirror

-right, then return by mirror-left, and then

I woke and sat upright in bed and said


to the darkness This must mean something, I

wonder what, if I fall asleep again

I'll dream the truth. Which I did. It's a lie.



I'll die one day and leave me behind as
a memory, I hope, maybe if folks
remember me that will be the way for
me to stay alive, maybe the only,
although at Sunday School they swear the soul

goes on forever in Heaven or Hell
and Jesus died so that I could live
the only life worth living, the one which
comes after death but takes dying to get
to, I'm only ten years old so maybe

that's why it doesn't make sense but only
to grownups like my Sunday School teacher
Miss Hooker and Preacher, they make a nice 
couple Mother says but they'd better get
married before they're overcome by sin,

I don't know what Mother means unless she
means making eyes and hugging and kissing,
those are evil unless you're spliced, I guess,
I'd ask Miss Hooker but Mother's warned me
not to but anyway in the After

-life I get all my questions answered so
I'll find out what living's for but I'll ask
God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost if
they have anything they want to ask me,
after all, I'll have been alive and none

of them ever were save Jesus, of course,
but that was long ago and maybe He
has bad memories of it, He never
came back like He promised, I want to share
what I learned with the Trinity, maybe

it would do 'em some good, it couldn't hurt,
but I might make ‘em mad and if I make
Heaven they might demote me, then I'd be
stuck with Satan for eternity but
I guess it beats being alone and I

wonder if he'll have questions for me but
I'm sure I'll have a few for him, maybe
Hell's where I belong, it may not be much
of an eternal life but if I can
hack it forever then it's more than I

can say for the Trinity but maybe
after a few million years they'll fish me
out and debrief me though maybe I won't
talk, they'll have to torture me. I can't wait
to help. Maybe it will make us closer.




The Great Commandment


I love Jesus I tell Miss Hooker when
Sunday School is over but I don't tell her that
I love Him more because we've stopped talking
about Him and God and the Holy Ghost
and religion and saving our souls so
that we'll go to Heaven instead of Hell
and we go through this once a week and week
upon week so that we can make up for
six days of sin in fifty minutes but

I don't say that, either, I'm only 10
and thinking like a grownup thinks, which means
depressingly but I keep it to my
-self, I'll wait until I'm a teenager
and expected to gripe about things and
how grownups ruin them so I try to
get along until I'm old enough not
to and cause trouble and start wars, maybe,
or overthrow the government or smoke
filterless cigarettes and drink foreign
beer and stop shaving even though I've looked
forward to it since boyhood and if I
was a woman I'd stop wearing a bra
and I might just stop wearing one any

-way, and Miss Hooker said Oh, that's fine, ____
--love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and
all thy soul and all thy mind
but then I
couldn't help a not necessarily 
in that order and laughing and she frowned,
Miss Hooker did, for just a moment, just
long enough to make for Eternity,
it's funny the way time works and how I
know that she'll go to Heaven when she kicks
and I'll go to Hell but if not then at
least we won't wind up in the same damn place.





One day when everybody's dead I'll be
alive in Heaven or Hell, I mean that
folks will be alive on earth but dead to
me because I'll be the dead one, I'll be
dead to them and this is what I declared
to Miss Hooker after Sunday School this
morning before I walked home but after
my classmates had all left so I sneaked back
in to get her alone, not to get her
as in attack but just to talk and not
have to share her and she wouldn't have to
share me, no one else in the classroom but
God, His presence anyway, I mean it
is church-grounds and therefore likely sacred
and then there's the photo of Jesus be
-hind Miss Hooker's desk--picture I mean, not
photo, no cameras back in the olden
time, not that Miss Hooker, she's 25,
could be interested in sharing much
with me, I'm 10, other than God, Jesus,
and the Holy Ghost, I confess that I love
her but to do something man-and-woman
about that, whatever that might mean, can't
happen until I'm older and I don't
even shave yet but one day, who knows, God
will bring us together, I mean when love's
not against the law at our ages now
and she'll be sitting on the commode, I
mean with the lid down to make a seat, and
watching me the way I watch Father shave
or Mother put on her face when the light's
bad in their bedroom and the light's brighter
here, I'll be razoring off last night’s whiskers
and maybe she's got a cup or two of coffee,
one in each hand and every few seconds
I reach over for mine and when she puts
it in my hand, fingers in the handle
I lift it and I've learned to lift it with
-out spilling a single drop, and sip
or maybe even gulp and sometimes I
leave shaving cream foam on the lip or in
the coffee itself but I'll drink it, when
she's with me I'm not afraid, she even
substitutes my cup for hers and she spoons
out with her upside-down little fingers
-nail the foam and wipes it on a towel and
if you ask me where babies come from I
would have to admit that I don't really
know but if you ask me how they're made then
I'd guess this way, it's good enough for me.







at my
when I be

that I

I'd never 






As Seen on TV


After Sunday School I walk home the same
way I walk to it but in reverse of
course not that I mean that I was walking
backwards but maybe I'll try that next week
but anyway on the way about half
-way that is I thought again of what I
thought of before, I mean on the way here,
I mean to Sunday School - seems that I took
it away with me - of Miss Hooker, my
teacher there and one day to be my wife
and in reality not just in dreams
and I have 'em, about us, together,
married that is and doing every night
what married people do, watching TV
and holding hands and munching popcorn though
not while holding hands but on the other
hand maybe so, why not, adults do all
kinds of crazy crap that kids can't do and
get away with it but anyway when
we run out of popcorn and are down to
kernels that never got ripe, so to speak,
I mean they never popped (I'm bad about
not saying what I mean), then we're off to
bed and that's where our children will happen
in whatever ways they do, I'm only
10, what do I know about life much less
birth, the way of coming into it, she'll
show me will Miss Hooker, she's one Hell of
a good teacher but anyway after
Sunday School today I dropped down to one
knee as seen on TV and proposed to
her or was about to when suddenly
she dropped to one of hers, it's bonier
than I guessed it would be and before I
could ask her to make me the happiest
guy in the world she said You read my mind
and Let us pray and before I could close
my eyes she started into the Lord's Prayer
so I joined in and after Amen-ing
together we opened our eyes and there
we were, divorced and rising, rising to
our feet and then she said Gale, go home so
I tried. I'll never get married again.



I don't know why I don't try harder not
to sin the way I do, I'm only 10
so I should live a Hell of a long time
and I've got enough, time that is, to stop
sinning and then ask God for forgiveness
in Jesus' name and any other names
I can come up with when the time comes to
die. Miss Hooker says that He'll forgive me
if I'm honest and sincere and she's my
Sunday School teacher so I rest my case.
But if I should die before I can beg
to be forgiven she says I'll go to
Hell and just get a glimpse of Heaven when
my soul's standing at the Throne of Judgment
where God's leafing through the Book of Life for
my name. If God's got to look in a book
to remember who I am and what I've
done or haven't done then how can He be
is what I'd ask Miss Hooker but she
might not like that and ex-com-mu-ni-cate
me and we're not even Catholic, that's
how much I'd rub her raw but I love her
and want to marry her one day so I
need to keep my yap closed until I say
I do and I guess while we're married, too.
So when I go to Heaven to be judged
and if God's wearing glasses while He hunts
down my name, bifocals or trifocals
even, I guess I'll know that He knows not
what He's doing, or if He knows He's lost
some of His edge. Then Hell won't seem so bad
because Satan will be sharper, I think
he's a few eternities younger and
so's Miss Hooker - 25. There it is.
I guess I don't try harder not to sin
because my soul's always been sort of
out of my hands anyway ever since
Adam and Eve, if you call swiping fruit
a sin. Maybe so. It depends what kind.

About the Poet

Gale Acuff is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Modern Languages, Arab American University in Palestine. His poetry was published in Ascent, Chiron ReviewMcNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, 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).

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Published by The Alternative.