FIVE POEMS by GALE ACUFF

WHEN THE WORLD ENDS IF I'M STILL ALIVE THEN


I won't be--I'll be dying with it, it

doesn't seem fair, other folks before me

got to die and leave the world more or less

whole behind them but if I go out when

the thing explodes or freezes or burns up

or however everything natural

ends and even what's unnatural, man

-made, I mean, it still doesn't seem so square

and what if when the world ends then Heaven

and Hell do, too? Not that that's not a good

idea but why can't we lose both of 'em

but keep Earth in the balance and not just

the center of it all but the only

all there is? Not that it's not too much now.

 

NOBODY WANTS TO DIE BUT OF COURSE I


haven't gone door-to-door asking though some

folks do, missionaries maybe they're called,

and I haven't mailed out a survey or

stopped folks on the street and asked them but then

we live in the countryside, it takes me

a good half-hour to walk into town for

church and Sunday School and the library

they have a lot of books and magazines

newspapers, ditto, and pretty girls in

glasses and their hair in buns and sometimes

I trek to town just to see them, then fall

in love but of course I can't marry all

of them, I'm only 10 but then it's good

exercise, walking and dying and walking back.

 

I'LL GET TO HEAVEN ONE DAY TO BE JUDGED


then sent down to Hell where I belong, it's

good to belong to something, I guess, but

not to everything, the Republican

Party, for example, but anyway

I'm only ten years old so my best bet

is to die almost right away so that

maybe God and Jesus and the Holy

Ghost (boo!) will have mercy on me, Suffer

the little children and all that and I

used to think it meant that kids should suffer,

if Jesus is God why can't He speak plain

or is it plainly, maybe God alone

knows but Jesus is God as well but then

I'll know it all when I'm truly on fire.

 

I'M GOING TO DIE SOMEDAY AND I HOPE


that I'll be happy then--I'm not happy

now knowing that I have to die but

when I do maybe I'll look back and think

life wasn't so bad, I'm glad it had me,

or maybe I'll be loads more satisfied

not alive anymore and I wonder

how I felt before I was ever born,

if I'm made in the image of God (God

help you, O Lord), then maybe I always

was, too, it's just that I can't remember

a goddamn thing about the life to come

that's my life now before I came to be.

Or maybe when I die I go back to

waiting to be born. I can hardly wait.

 

NOBODY LOVES ME, ME INCLUDED, I


guess, I feel closest when I hate myself,

love and hate aren't so different as long

as there's no weapon involved and

at church and Sunday School God loves me and

Jesus, too, and probably the Holy

Ghost but there's no accounting for taste, I

just want to be left alone until I

die, except for Mother and my future

wives and children and dogs and tropical

fish and in Sunday School class today I

got caught chewing gum and forced to leave but

some attention's worth an exile so next

week I'll be back to try God again, I

hate myself but Come, let us adore Him.

 

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