Gale Acuff

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There’s nobody who loves Jesus more than
I do unless it’s Jesus Himself but
that would probably be vanity,
Divine vanity and that’s not kosher,
and then there’s God, the Father of Jesus
and, some say, Jesus Himself, if it’s true
that I and the Father are one and if
you throw in for good measure the Holy
Ghost–well, I forgot where I was going

with all this unless it was and is to
swear how much I love Him, Jesus I mean,
but then here comes God and the Holy Ghost
again so I’m back where I began but
I’m not really sure where that is and was
and will be, world without end, Amen, har

har. One day I’ll die and then hang
around in my grave until Judgment Day
or is it that I have to go to Hell
for several zillion years until that day
before my soul’s sprung loose to rush to meet
Jesus in the air when Gabriel blows
his horn, or does Jesus toot His own, no

disrespect intended, I’m only ten
years old and though I go to Sunday School
every week sometimes I get confused as
to Hell so that nothing’s sure as far as
I’m concerned save that I’m alive and I
was born and then I’ll die and if you want
a Trinity to believe in, well, there’s

one for you. After Sunday School I tried
to proclaim my gospel to Miss Hooker, she’s
25 and paints her toenails, Mother
says that that’s a sin but Father sticks up
for her, for Miss Hooker that is, and I
know it for a fact, I’ve seen it, I mean
them, I mean Miss Hooker’s toenails, sometimes

she takes off her shoes, do they call ‘em pumps,
while she’s sitting at her desk and going
on and on about some Bible story,
not that I mind ‘em, her stories I mean,
her toenails, neither, for that matter, I
guess I’m like Father in that way, I guess

Jesus and God would see things alike, not
painted toenails necessarily but
other stuff, they might disagree but still
claim each other for His own, like Father
and I do, would I mean, I mean if he
understood what the Hell I was talking
about, maybe when I’m older and nails,
toe- or finger-, are good places to start,
but anyway after class today I
told Miss Hooker that all we really know
(and I hope that God and Jesus don’t take
it too hard, ditto the Holy Ghost) is

birth and life and death and that maybe birth
and death are kinds of life as well, and as
for what happens before and after, be
-fore and after life I mean, who the Hell
can say with matter-of-factness unless
he can offer up some evidence to
cinch, or is it clinch, it? Or she? Poor
Miss Hooker, she sank into her chair, it
was the slowest fall I’ve ever seen, no
feather ever floated to the ground more
slowly and quietly and finally

and all led by her rear end, Miss Hooker’s
rear end, and you should’ve seen the look on
her face, it’s like that one they give you when
they know that you’re going to put them to
sleep, I mean old pets, you want to keep them
alive but somehow it’s a mercy to
send ‘em back to meet their Maker, you put
them out of their misery like they say
–you take them upon yourself, their dying

anyway, after you shoot them or have
the vet put them away and then you learn
a little more about religion than
you knew before though maybe sometimes
a little bit less and so they balance

out like birth and death and as for life, well,
you hold it and it’s hotter than before
and even smoking. Let us pray, Gale, said
Miss Hooker after I laid down the law
or at least passed it along to her, not
that she didn’t already know it but
that she didn’t want to hear it again
and certainly not at church, she didn’t
say so but I sort of saw it in her
eyes and she wears glasses but that didn’t
stop me. Then to make her feel better I

asked her to marry me when I’m older
and she said to wait and see and if she
was still single that I’d have a shot and
when I looked as if my heart was breaking,
or is it were, she added If I’m in
a lousy marriage I’ll keep an open
, and when I looked up again and at

her she smiled like Mary must have when she
remembered that her helpless baby was
God. As if we could let her forget it.


After Sunday School today I threw up
behind our portable classroom so no
one could see or hear me but Miss Hooker
did and came to the little round window
and pushed it out, I didn’t know it would
open but sure enough she stuck her head
out and kind of downward and called Gale, Gale,
what’s the matter, Honey, have some bad break
so I looked up to answer but she
was gone and about two minutes later
she came around the end of the building,
of course there are two, two ends I mean, I
mean the east end but the way my head was
spinning, spinning, it might as well have been
the west but doesn’t it say in the Good
Book somewhere about the end and the be
-ginning and the Alpha and Omega
so maybe it doesn’t really matter
–Miss Hooker arrived as I was spitting
up the last of my breakfast, which was zilch
since I woke up late and was afraid to
miss Sunday School, God might get me for that,
Jesus and the Holy Ghost, too, and then
there’s Miss Hooker, who chewed me out last week
for being ten minutes tardy and made
me stay late to stack hymnbooks and dump trash.
Then she laid hands on me, well, the right hand
but then again it might’ve been her left
on the small of my back, that’s right above
my butt and below my actual back
and I shouldn’t say butt, that’s a dirty
word and you go to Hell for smuttiness
Miss Hooker says but anyway it felt
fair and so I did it to her, too, I
did it in return that is, that is when
I was standing tall again even though
I’m not, I’m only ten years old and small
for my age and she gave me a look that
meant if I hadn’t been upchucking then
she’d have slapped me if I’d been old enough
and then, right then, I wished I was and still
do, then maybe she’d know that I love her
and want to marry her one day and her
slap would’ve stunned her as well and she’d be
my gal from that moment on so much so
that her attention would last until I’m
old enough to marry her and to Hell
with a first date, sometimes first love is last
and this is one of those times. I wanted
to kiss her but she’s too tall, even on
my tiptoes, not Miss Hooker on mine, ha ha,
that would be a Hell of a miracle.
Then I followed her into our classroom
and we sat together on two stools in
front of her desk below God-become-man
on the Cross behind her desk. Then she said
I’ll give you a ride home but I said, No
thank you, ma’am, I’ll walk there same as always
Then she said, Well, I’ll walk with you and that’s
how I fell out of love with her. I said
I’m sorry, ma’am, but where I’m going you
cannot come
. It’s almost like the Bible.


Miss Hooker’s my Sunday School teacher and
I love her loads but one day I’ll go to
Hell because I love her more than I do
God and/or Jesus and / or the Holy
Ghost and what that is blasphemy and
the hardest word I know, I’m only ten
years old but anyway when I die and
go to Heaven to be judged God will search
in the Book of Life for my name and I
might save Him some time but He’ll be thorough
and come up empty of me and then say
To the Lake of Eternal Fire with thee
or something cornball but I’ll beat Him to
a pulp–I mean to the punch–and have stepped
in that direction before His judgment
maybe just to get it over with or
teach Him a lesson, God’s eternal but
you’re never too old to learn no matter
that you’re really no age at all, don’t ask
how I know, I guess it’s a matter of

faith, and so I’ll burn forever for love
of Miss Hooker, too much love, maybe, love
of the wrong kind maybe, love for someone
who’s not God but try telling that to me,
ha, and anyway, wasn’t it God Who
made Miss Hooker and so if I love His
creation, or one of ’em anyhow,
ain’t that a way of loving God, too, God
in the flesh or at least in a girdle?
Not that she wears one. But Mother does, I
can see it inside her dress if I look
hard enough but I try like Hell not to,
she’s already got a beau, that would be
Father and one day we may have to fight

over Miss Hooker, he and Mother don’t
usually come to church and he asks
me at the dinner table about her
but then Mother changes the subject and
Father chuckles and Mother says Father,
that’s enough
, so he clears his throat and then
I say Someday Miss Hooker will be all
and Father says That’s our boy and then
Mother says She’s a little old for you
and I say Well, so’s God, and Father says
–practically shouts–Touché, Mother, and
that’s French and then Mother says No dessert
today, boys–sorry
. But that’s all right, she’s
not truly sorry and my cavities
won’t miss it and Father’s teeth are phony.

Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in a dozen countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.

Photo by Gratisography on

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