Gale Acuff : Selected Poems

Sometimes when you die you’re only dead I

say to my Sunday School teacher after
class this morning, the Resurrection’s what
it was all about and I get to do
what Jesus did, rise from the dead, but in
Heaven, not here on Earth, and He did both
so I feel cheated and I told her so
but she says to have faith and don’t under
-estimate the power of the Lord and
so on and so on and Anyway, Gale,
you’re no Jesus so I said, Well, you’re no
Virgin Mary and stomped away but came
back a few moments later and she was
crying, my teacher I mean, not Mary,
but maybe she was, too, resurrected.


I used to be dead I tell my Sunday

School teacher after class and we’re alone
in our portable classroom, well not our
portable classroom but there’s a saying,
Possession is nine-tenths of the law or
something like that, what do I know, I’m just
ten years old to her 25 but she
says Then you rose from the dead like Jesus
and I play along, if she’s playing, and
even if she’s not, I say Well, I died
in a different way but like Him, sure, I’m
back and she says I hardly knew you were gone,
Gale, so I say Yes ma’am–did you miss me
and she says Well, no, since I didn’t know
you were gone. Is there an echo in here?

Sometimes I can’t wait to die and waiting

is driving me crazy but my Sunday
School teacher says good things come to
those who sit and wait but I’d better wait
and do something to kill the time meantime
which is kind of what I’m doing now, I’m
ten years old and might live to be 90
so there’s a lot of hours to fill up with
-out sleeping or hibernating so no
wonder no matter how patient folks are
they die just the same and Eternity
is what we get, it’s not time, exactly,
maybe it’s not even timelessness but
it’s just what it will be that it’s not now,
whatever that is.

If I have to die then I have to die

because I can’t live forever ten years
old or young, I have to expire and that’s
pretty much life, it’s an introduction
you might say to death but wasn’t I dead
already, I mean before I was born?
That’s what I asked at Sunday School but my
teacher laughed and said No, Gale, you weren’t dead
–your soul was alive up in Heaven, then
I told her that I don’t remember and
she laughed again and said Nobody does,
Dear Boy, but when you do die you’ll meet God
and ask Him all the questions you ask
me and get all the answers, too, so I
said Yes ma’am, thank you. Now I want to live.

When you die you die but religion says

you get the Afterlife of Heaven or
Hell, at least at our church and Sunday School
and I’m ten years old and the adult world
is crazy and I’ll be one one day, I’ll
be an adult that is and inherit
the insanity but I go to church
mostly to see friends who go to other
regular schools and for the doughnuts and
orange juice but it’s usually Tang so
sometimes I pretend that Jesus really
turned water into wine so why not Tang
into blood and as for doughnuts
they become, I guess, the body of Christ.
That’s so insane that I’m already grown.

Sometimes people die before they want to

and maybe that’s really all the time, I
don’t know, I’m ten years old, I don’t know shit
from Shinola so I asked my Sunday
School teacher for the score but she said Wait
until you yourself are dead, Dear, and then
you’ll know everything you always wanted
to know and even more and then she smiled,
which is really all I wanted to know
and I knew it already, I guess, then
I told her so and she blushed so I said
I love you, Miss Hooker and she answered
even though it wasn’t a question I
love you, too, Gale and then It’s good to love
everyone, especially enemies.

Sometimes when you’re dead you’re not–religion

is what that is and won’t leave you alone
but puts you in an Afterlife and your
adventures continue eternally
I guess until God or whatever ends
everything, including all the nothing,
and I’m only ten years old, just to live
to be 15 seems like a lifetime and
my folks are pushing 40, already
ancient and then of course there’s God if He
really exists and if not He might as
well, we have to blame somebody for us
and praise them, too, to be fair, I
guess. Not that religion is but then when
I die I won’t stay dead. Too much sugar.

When you die you’re dead but still you’re alive

says our Sunday School teacher as if she
knows for sure but I don’t see how she can
but that’s religion, it’s pretty stupid
like a lot of comic books and TV
shows for children but it’s entertaining
and I go to church because I have per
-fect attendance, that’s a kind of perfec
-tion anyway, maybe not God’s but then
there is no God nor Jesus as folks dream
‘em to be and as for the Holy Ghost
there’s more reality to Casper but
when I die I’ll know for sure my teacher
swears, though what I’ll do with knowledge being
dead, who knows. Just another miracle.

When you die you go to Heaven or your

soul to be specific goes to get God’s
judgment and it gets to stay if you’ve been
good but goes to Hell if you’ve been bad and
as for your body it gets buried and
rots away no matter how well preserved
even if it takes a million years and
so does your coffin, it disintegrates
to atoms but atoms you don’t see save
they’re in some other shape and it might be
good never to die but my Sunday School
teacher says Oh Gale, you never do die,
meaning I’ll go on in Heaven or Hell
–but I’d rather go on here, Earth that is,
where Heaven and Hell are both good to go.

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