Three Poems by Gale Acuff



I don’t want to die but my mind’s open

as if I have a choice, maybe I do

but for now, or do I mean later, I

only get to live forever after

I die, forever in the afterlife

I mean, Heaven or Hell, that’s where I’ll be

-long, one or the other I mean and yet

there’s eternity to both, more, I’m told,

at church and Sunday School here on Earth, no

one lives forever here, not even rocks

and dirt and they’re not even alive is

how serious Creation is so what

to do but pray and sing and praise and do

so once a week at least and that’s Sunday


School and church and my classmates and Preacher

and Miss Hooker, she’s our teacher, ask her

if she’ll go to Heaven when she kicks though

say die instead of kick and she says Hell

yes though she doesn’t say Hell, you see it

on her face you might say, maybe it’s more

like Heck yes or Heavens yes – Yes indeed

she’ll come out with once in a while or her

words will, out of her mouth that is, one day

I’ll be dead and meet her in Heaven if

I don’t land in Hell instead, Miss Hooker

will go to Heaven for sure but I guess

anything’s possible, she might wind up

in Hell, too, don’t tell her I said so though

she’d be the first to say with modesty

that she’s a sinner but anyway I

almost hope she does because my chance for


Heaven’s pretty slim, for ten years old I

sin a good bit or is it a bad bit

so I’ll have no chance to see her again

unless it’s in the Bad Place and even

Jesus spent some time down there Himself but

anyway I don’t give a fig where I

go as long as I can romance her, she’s

25 here on Earth but when we’re dead

I guess we’ll be the same age, I’d ask her

but she might get wise to me if she’s not

already, wiser to me than I am.




I may be only ten years old but it

won’t be long before I die, years being

second, even less, to God Almighty

but a mighty long time to me unless

I think like He does and reality

goes by pretty damn fast and of course I

might die tomorrow or even sooner

and then where will I be but in Heaven

or Hell they tell me at church and Sunday

School and I guess I agree if that’s all

the knowledge about God they can give me,

I wish I had more but I’ll live with it

like I’ve done so far and everyone else

has, too, not just folks alive like I am

now but all of those in the past, the past

goes pretty far back, way back before me

and sometimes I wish I could go there but

come back to my time now whenever I

want but one thing’s for certain, make that two,

I’m going to die one day and if I

have to live forever like I hope now

I’ve got to die to do it, that’s what they

teach in Sunday School, how they know I don’t

know but they act as if they do and I

don’t want to cause them any problems, they

have problems enough just figuring God

and Jesus and the Holy Ghost and all

that religious stuff and after Sunday

School this morning I asked my teacher how

she and Preacher and the Deacons know that

what they talk about at church is so and

she answered Well, Gale, no one’s ever asked

me that before and she sat down even

though she already was, try to picture

that, it’s got religiousness to it, too,

no ten-year-old I mean, she continued,

though once in a while or maybe more we

grownups talk about such affairs but you

needn’t concern yourself with these matters

now, which is just what I’d expect God to

stammer at me so no wonder I fell

in love with my teacher, I worship her

you might say though not the ground she walks on,

that would be me and that would be a sin.



Death doesn’t scare me, life does, or living

it, I don’t want to but then I won’t

have to get up early for regular

school nor on Sundays for church and Sunday

School nor visit the doctor or even

worse, the dentist, or own a dog or cat

and worry about forgetting to feed

one or the other, or Hell, sometimes both,

or failing my driver’s test or any

test for that matter or eating too much

or catching the flu or a virus and

striking out in softball or asking out

a girl for the first time or even middle

or final time and getting a job or

paying taxes or getting caught smoking

or swiping butts from my folks’ top dresser

drawer or getting beat up or voting

for the wrong guy, it’s kind of the same thing,

or gal, or running myself and losing

or growing infirm and falling and frac

-turing my hip or buying ice milk in

-stead of ice cream accidentally or

going to war but I was drafted or

kissing Grandmother and smelling her cold

cream and shaking Grandfather’s hand but his

teeth fall out or sharing my handkerchief

when someone sneezes, then tries to give it

back and I don’t know what to say and if

that someone was Jesus what would I do,

take it, tell Him to keep it, or take it to

sell and try to get folks to believe that

He sneezed into it? Oh, you must believe

I’d tell ’em, my college education’s

riding on it. It’s really Father’s, though.



When you’re dead you still have a future 

my Sunday School teacher, Eternity

is what it’s called, so I raised my hand in

class and asked her how that could be, how you

can die and still live on and she answered

If you have enough faith, Dear, you can know

nearly everything so I just said Oh

and then Yes ma’am and then it was time to

leave for another week so I’m damned if

she didn’t call on me to lead us all

in the Lord’s Prayer, which I did, if I

know anything it’s that, that and the “Pledge

of Allegiance” and–funny–all the words 

to “Wild Thing.” Don’t they make a joyful noise?