MISS HOOKER / GALE ACUFF

 

When I die I’ll go to Hell, Miss Hooker
says, my Sunday School teacher, because I
sin too much and even a little’s not
good. But it can’t be all my fault because
Adam and Eve started it all, crossing
God by eating that apple when they knew
if they did there would be big trouble
but I wonder if they knew they’d be handing
down trouble to me too. And what they did
got them kicked out of Eden and not just
them but everybody else, too, so much
so that we’re not lucky enough to have
been in there to be kicked out in the first
place. I love Miss Hooker and I’d like to
marry her someday but she’s too old at
25 and I’m too young at 10 and
it’s all their fault, I mean our first parents’,
that love can’t be everything it can be
so what I’ve got to do, Miss Hooker says,
is believe that Jesus died for my sins
and let Him into my heart and He’ll help
me not to sin so much, even though I
will and almost have to. And the Bible,
I need to read it more. And pray more, too,
in Jesus’ name, for forgiveness when I
sin. And that way I can go to Heaven.
After Sunday School today I walked home
the half-mile and cut through the woods instead
of walking along the highway and thought
how nice Eden must have been, tall pine trees
maybe, and pretty songbirds, and blue sky
between the needles coming and going
with the breeze, but when I got home my parents
hunched at the kitchen table, smoking Lucky Strikes
and sipping Sanka and Mogen David
and the big newspaper spread all over
and the lunch dishes in the kitchen sink
they eat without me and my job’s to wash
them, the dishes I mean. I say hello
and they grunt as I go to my attic
bedroom to change my clothes. When I return
I make a peanut butter sandwich–they
had bacon and eggs–and make some grape Tang
and at school the bread is Jesus’ body
and the grape juice–wine’s a sin–is His blood.
Then I wash and dry the dishes and when
Mother asks what I learned from God today
I announce that all men have come short of
the glory of God. She laughs and says, That’s
your father to a T. Then I add, All
women, too, and Father says, Testify.
Then they look up from the newspaper and
say, practically together, All kids,
too, then look at each other and laugh and
laugh. Jesus, that was funny, Father says.

 

 

 

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in many journals, including Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Ottawa Arts Review, WorcesterReview, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Arkansas Review, Carolina Quarterly, Poem, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara ReviewSequential Art Narrative in Education, and many others. 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).

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank. He currently teaches American and British literature at Sichuan University for Nationalities, in Guza, Sichuan, People’s Republic of China.

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