"Am not in love, and neither is she. And we are happy" Three poems by Gale Acuff That You Shouldn't Miss

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"Am not in love, and neither is she. And we are happy" Three poems by Gale Acuff That You Shouldn't Miss

Poetry by Gale Acuff

Animated

On Sunday morning there are no cartoons
on TV so I go to Sunday School
--except for Astro Boy but he's for kids
and I'm ten years old and anyway God
has some good stories, in the Bible, if
only they were cartoons or comic books.
I listen to Miss Hooker tell a tale
from long ago, almost as long ago
as there was the beginning of God, if
God has a beginning. I don't think so
but like my father tells me, I'm not paid
to think. Heck, I said to him, I'm not paid
at all. Well, there's your allowance,
he said. Well, sure, but I've got that
coming. Don't argue with me, boy, he said,
or you'll have something else coming, too, and
you'll get what you don't know you're working for.
He means a whipping. Why can't people say
what they mean? This morning it was the one
about Moses parting the Red Sea . I
saw the movie. It was spectacular,
maybe even better than the story
from the Bible, if it's not a sin to
say so. I'm not saying that I'm saying,
I'm just curious. I should read more but
Miss Hooker's my Sunday School teacher and
she does my reading for me, I trust her
more than my own brain, if I have one. If
I think for myself too much my head hurts
but maybe that's my brain, too, the outside
part of it, the kind that likes aspirin.
She's got red hair and green eyes and freckles
and her skirts are too daring, Mother says,
but I don't mind, I like to see her legs
because she has freckles on them, too, and
everywhere else I can see and I do
a lot of looking while she's talking and
if I had Superman's X-ray vision
or Martian Manhunter's Martian-vision
I could see through her clothes and count them all,
her freckles I mean. I'd like to know how
many she sports and if they come and go
like measles or last forever like stars,
except the stars that go nova. Ka-boom.
There's no sound in space but I'll bet it's loud.
Stars mights live forever but outer space
will end one day. I think the Bible says
so, not that it can talk but of course God
can make anything do what He wants it
to do so who knows. Miss Hooker's freckles
will be eternal, too, even after
she dies and goes to Heaven. Don't ask me
where they go when they leave her body--to
Heaven with her soul? I'd like to find out
and come back and tell everyone the truth
but to get to Heaven I'll have to die
but I'd hate to have to go that far and
even if I could I couldn't return,
not alive like I am now. Maybe God
could make it happen for me but He must
have better things to do and so do I,
I guess, like making sure I believe so
I don't go to Hell--then I'd never see
Miss Hooker again and the naked truth
is I love her and want to marry her
and hear her tell a different story
every night to me, before we go
to sleep, and I mean in the same bedroom
and in the same bed. We could also watch
TV and read comic books and play cards
and munch popcorn. I could paint her toenails
and she could scratch the places I can't reach.
Then everyday would be like Sunday School
--well, even better. And we'll have babies
once she teaches me how--I guess that's in
the Bible, too. I tried to find out from
Mother and Father but I don't think they
know or if they do they don't want to tell.
Miss Hooker and I will sleep together
in the dark and maybe wake the next day
to a baby, our baby, crying. I
should ask Miss Hooker where babies come from,
she's old enough to know, and if she'd like
to have one if it's not too late because
she's 25 and time's running out for
us if I'm ever going to spark her.
Sometimes I pray that God will make us one
age, 18 say, and let is get married
and no one will notice that our numbers
changed and we'll wake the next morning and seek
each other out and be happy as hogs
in slop, and if God really loves us we'll
die at the same time and go to Heaven
hand in hand, so to speak, and never have
time for one of us to miss the other.
When Moses made it across the Sea he
raised his cane and the waters spilled right back
in place and drowned Pharaoh's charioteers.
Miss Hooker said that God was on their side,
the Israelites', I mean, but I feel
sorry for the horses. I guess they went
to Hell. I hope not. Red Seahorses. Ha.

***

Denominations

If I had a dollar for every time
that Miss Hooker has said The Bible says . . .
I'd have at least thirty pieces of gold
easy, or is silver that Judas
earned from selling out his Savior and was
that in God's plan all along? I ought to
ask Miss Hooker--my Sunday School teacher
--what the straight dope is but I don't think it's
really straight at all, it's religion's what
it is and I think that means that if you
have the right amount of faith then you don't
worry about how much sense it makes, you're
in God's world now and not your own and I
love Miss Hooker like there's no tomorrow,
she's 25 to my 10 but if God
is Who they say He is, maybe even
Who He says He is, there's a way for me
to marry Miss Hooker, miracle or
no miracle--when she's 40 to my
25 I'll have a decent shot at
her and if she's married then and even
in love and they have children, well,
that's when my prayers might kick in, the truth
is that I've been praying for her hand in
marriage, all the rest of her, too, every
night for the last nine months or so, maybe
I've got nothing to lose by going through
the motions at least, I really do try
to be sincere even though I know that
it's all hooey anyway or at least
the odds are good, well, if not good maybe
even. But from what I can tell being
a pretty fair sinner Miss Hooker can
save me from Hellfire and what's even more
important from Eternity with her
up in Heaven and me way down below
where even I'd send me if I was God,
or is it were--Hell, even language is
religious, and the Bible says that In
the beginning was the Word
and although
Miss Hooker hasn't declared it in so
many words, that word, I'll bet, is Jesus,
I'm so blamed sure of it that I'd wager
thirty pieces of silver, or is it
gold, on it. But in our church gambling's not
permitted, not even Bingo. But God
must think it's okay in other churches
--religion again, I guess. I wonder
what denomination He is. I bet
when He calls it will cost me to find out.

***

Perfect Couple

At night I tell my wife how much I love
to hold her close to me. That much is true,
but I don't love her, or am not in love,
and neither is she. And we are happy

without that happiness some say is true.
It's not, or doesn't have to be; it's not
us at all, though we're both romantic
when we see the right film or share a book,

an improbable love story. But that's love
for you, the kind that doesn't exist, it's
impossible. There's nothing but the night
between us now. I like to say to her,

You know, this is my favorite time to be
with you. Her back's to me and she's hoping
to fall asleep but I can feel her hug
herself, quickly hunching her shoulders. Thanks,

that means. That's sweet, her body's saying. Sure,
I say (with my mouth) - we're nice and quiet
and too bored to argue and you like me
again. So I put a finger through her

curls and touch the tip of her nose with my
fingertip and pat her pregnant (because
a little plump, too much tuna helper)
un-pregnant belly and then slap her butt.

And sometimes I can't fall asleep - I think,
This, then, is what love is - is it enough,
and if it is, why do we want more and
how could we have let the world mislead us?

So I love my wife, but not by the book.
I tried to explain that to her once but
she seemed alarmed, as if I were hinting
at divorce - in fact, that was our wedding

night. Nobody knows what love is, I said,
so let's not get too worked up about it.
You don't love me, she asked. We've just married.
No, no, I said. That's not what I meant -

I mean that now we have a chance to learn what
love really is; nobody can tell us,
I already know what it is, she said.
Then she cried, while I thought, You talk too much,

man. Back off. I just meant that I reject
everything I know been's said about it.
Maybe you have three degrees, she said, but
you've got no heart and no brain to match,

you're the perfect couple, I hope you'll be
very happy together
. We make it.
As for my wife and me, she came around
eventually, sees how hopeless love


is, learned to despise the romantic hype.
I wonder what's for supper tomorrow.
She's a good cook, and I wash the dishes.
She's a good cook, and I wash the dishes.

***

Gale has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He's the author of three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

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