Gale Acuff

What Eternal Is

When I die I want to go to Heaven
because Miss Hooker will be there, she's my
Sunday School teacher and I love her but
I can never marry her because she's
old, 25, and I'm only 10, and
by the time I'm old enough to have and
hold her she'll be older, too, and maybe
married by then, and even if she's not
she may decide I'm still too young for her.
No, my only shot's death, when we're both in

Heaven, and she'll probably go first and
I'll follow but fifteen years later if
we both die naturally in old age.
But even if I die first I can wait
for her, that is if I don't wind up in
Hell for all my sinning and then we'd be
a lot more than just fifteen years apart,
but as far as Heaven is from Hell and
God from Satan and I guess birth from death
unless they're hardly separate at all
—I wonder sometimes, as if one's nothing
without the other. Without Miss Hooker

I don't feel like all too much. I see her
only on Sunday mornings and even
then she doesn't know how much I love her.
I could tell her but I'm too embarrassed
and she might tell me anyway to wait
and see when I'm all grown up, or that she's
flattered, which is a nice way of saying
no chance. So for now I keep my mouth shut
when what I really want is to kiss hers.
I'll have to wait for the afterlife, stop
my sinning and measure up to her and
one day meet her there, in Heaven I mean,
where I guess we'll both be the same age, that's

what eternal is. Of course, she might have
a dead husband up there, too, and still have
eyes for him and he for her but if not
then I'll tell her how I feel, but if he's
still alive back on earth then I won't try
to bust them up just to satisfy me,
that kind of thing won't wash too well up there
and as far as I know nobody dies
twice so I guess I'll have to learn to love
somebody else, if there's love in Heaven
that's anything like love down here I mean.
Sometimes I wish I'd never been born
so that I'd never die and never hope
that I could live forever—what a waste
of time, wishing that there be more of it.
But if I go to Hell my problem's solved.

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

He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.
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