Poetry: Selections from Gale Acuff

Our Sunday School teacher says there's something
called the End Times, it's the end of the world
and can happen 'most any time so we
ten-year-olds need to be ready because
if we've been sinners, heinous or other
-wise, we'll go to Hell, forget Jesus died
so that we won't have to even though we
will, it's called religion, it doesn't make
sense but it's almost as exciting as
comic books but anyway I don't want
to die, not even if I get to go
to Heaven and then that's only my soul,
I'll leave my body behind and pick up
a new one in Heaven but as for my
old why can't it rate Eternity, too?

When you're dead you're dead and don't come back to
life they say at regular school but at
Sunday School 'most anything goes, you get
to go to Heaven if you're good and if
you're not you still live forever, just in
Hell where even croaked you'll wish that you were
dead again and I get that once a week
but for the other five days it's science
and not even God can overcome that
and on Saturdays I'm sort of on my own,
if God rests Sundays I do Saturdays
and try not to think of either kind of
knowledge though I doubt that's what it is at
church, it's more like a scary movie with
some good parts but not enough nudity.

I'll go to Heaven when I die, then live
forever if I get to stay, God will
judge me but it's possible I'll go to
Hell to burn forever but that's life, too,
I hope, and to get to either one I must
die and I don't want to, I want to live
forever and I mean alive, alive
on Earth, where life really counts and I'll bet
there's no fire in Heaven nor ice in Hell
but where I am now, by damn, we've got both
and my Sunday School teacher says that God
became a man and died for me but I
think that sacrifice is wrong, I mean when
you promise to return but never do
--Santa comes back and he's not even real.

Nobody wants to die I tell my Sun
-day School teacher but she says No, Dear, you're
wrong, some of us do so that we'll see God
and Jesus and the Holy Ghost and our
old friends, a few of them anyway, and
the angels and saints and our old pets so
I ask Yes ma'am, so should I kill myself
but she says No, God will take you in good
time, be patient, and remember that if
you do kill yourself you'll wake up dead in
Hell, that's how that works, suicide's a sin
above all sins or almost, then she smiled
so I smiled, too, and I wanted to ask
if she kills me or I kill her is that
kosher but I think I'd hear a Maybe.

Nobody lives forever, all people
die but their souls have a chance, a shot at
living forever and up in Heaven
and for all I know down in Hell, too, they
get new bodies to hold their souls, the Good
Book says something like old wine in new wine
-skins or is that new wine in old skins, I
forget exactly but one thing's for sure
--when I die I'll know all there is to know,
my Sunday School teachers swears it but if
after I do I don't know a damn thing
new or know just a little but not it
all I'll want to come back to life and try
again, though it didn't work for Jesus
or it did but He found that He knew too much.

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Reed, Journal of Black Mountain College StudiesThe Font Chiron Review, Poem, Adirondack Review, Florida ReviewSlantArkansas Review, South Dakota ReviewRoanoke Review and many other journals in over a dozen countries. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.


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