Spring 2023, Volume 34

Poetry by Gale Acuff

Nobody lives forever but that's good

says my Sunday School teacher because if
nobody died then there wouldn't be space
for everybody else who gets born
And this, she says, is just another ex
-ample of God's wisdom so all us kids
cry Yes ma'am, I mean it's a chorus
and we almost sing it, at least we shout
it like we do Amen! at the end of
the third time we all say the Lord's Prayer
and after class today I asked her, my
Sunday School teacher that is, if Jesus
took out a copyright on it, after
all, He wrote the damn thing but she said nix,
folks were better back then. That's why they're dead.

When you're dead you're dead unless you're in Hell

or Heaven and life on Earth combines 'em
so you're a little dead even alive
and at Sunday School Heaven's all-good and
Hell's all-bad and it seems to me to have
both in one place at the same time means folks
have the best of both and after class I
told my Sunday School teacher so and asked
Why don't angels and demons come to Earth
and settle here and she answered Oh, they
do come to Earth and maybe a few do
settle down but as a rule the world's for
only people and animals and plants so
so I asked In that order, ma'am and she said
In that order, Gale. I'm just testing her.

Nobody lives forever but because

they don't somehow they do and we call that
religion and I attend Sunday School
and church service afterwards every week
whether I need them or not, I'm only
ten years old so I'm guessing that I do
need them but maybe one day I won't, I'll
sleep late Sunday mornings like Mother and
Father and like them ask my child when he
or she comes home how God's doing this week
and if there were any pretty girls there
or boys and enjoy my weekends and go
to Hell when I die because I was half
-assed when it came to my immortal soul.
At least we believe what we don’t believe.

I don't want to go to Hell, that's for sure

I tell my Sunday School teacher mostly
to get her off my back, I'm ten years old
and she wants me to get my soul saved so
if I expire tomorrow or next week
or the next second I won't wake up dead
in Hell and roll over and see Satan
smirking down at me--if it was Heaven
instead I'd see Jesus standing there but
smiling and even raising me up but
in Hell I might spend eternity just
trying to get back on my feet, I'd be
flat on my back in the fire, frying to
death but of course I'd be dead already
but wish I could die more. She's damn pretty.

I'm going to die one day and whether

I dwell in Heaven or Hell—hey, that rhymes
—I get to see God if only enough
to get judged and if He sends me to Hell
then I'll have something to remember down
there but if I've been good or good enough
I'll see Him every day up there, if there
are days in Heaven, Eternity's time
-less I guess so I'm not sure how I'll know
one moment from the next if there aren't mo
-ments and maybe the same is true for Hell,
you don't burn and burn and burn, exactly,
you're the fire that burns so after Sunday
School I asked my teacher for the truth and
she came back with What is truth? Like I know.




BIO: Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in a dozen countries and has authored three books of poetry. Her poems have appeared in Ascent, Reed, Journal of Black Mountain College Studies, The Font, Chiron Review, Poem, Adirondack Review, Florida Review, Slant, Arkansas Review, Maryland Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Roanoke Review, War, Literature & the Arts, and many other journals.

She has taught tertiary English courses in the US, PR China, and Palestine.