Poetry

‘Good Question’ and other poems by Gale Acuff

By: Gale Acuff

Good Question

I’ll be dead one day and done with all this
life that gets in my way so that I can’t
live and I guess that you kill death off by

dying, that’s kind of funny, ironic’s
what a grownup would say, I’m only ten
years old so what do I know is what most

grownups probably think and it’s a good
question, I can’t be too immature if
I don’t understand what the grownups don’t

either and after Sunday School class this
morning I asked my teacher the meaning
of life – I mean besides religious stuff –

but before she answered she sat down hard
in her big blue plastic chair, I squatted
on my usual little red stool, then

she said Well, Gale, that’s a good question, so
I said Thank you, ma’am, for that answer, then
said goodbye and left but stopped in the hall

-way where she couldn’t see me and waited
for her to call me back but she didn’t,
I called me back so I entered the room

again and she was crying quietly,
sobbing or weeping as the grownups say.
I wanted to help her but I’m in love.

###

Catch

I want to live forever if there’s no
hitch, no way that I’d regret it, take that
guy in the poem who got immortal but
he forgot to ask the gods to stop him
aging, in regular school our teacher
read part of it to us, folks spoke strangely
in those days, at least the poet-folks but
I guess that when you tell a story sad
you might as well make it beautiful in
some way, it’s how and not what or why which
matters most. And you know what I think?
I asked my Sunday School teacher after class,
I think that when you die you get a shot
at living forever without a catch,
that life in the Hereafter beats the Hell
out of life here and now. And then she said
You’d best run on home now, Gale, and I’ll see
you next week
, so I said Yes ma’am, goodbye.
I’ll be older then but she’ll be younger.

###

Thus Saith

I’ll be dead soon and I’m only 10 and
I mean that I’ll probably live to be
100 but when I die then I’ll feel
it’s too soon and God’s eternal is what
they swear at church and Sunday School so my
years of life are nothing to His though on
the other hand if Eternity’s not
time then I’m actually older than
God Almighty and I told my Sunday
School teacher so after class today but
she told me that I have a demon so
she’ll pray and pray that I get that demon
out so I said Well, good luck and she said
You pray, too but I said The Hell you say
.

###

Context

Death to religion so that God may live
I said in Sunday School class this morning. Not
bad for someone who’s only ten years old
but it got me a class-full of gasps and
Miss Hooker, my teacher, told me to leave
because I was being disruptive. I
don’t even know what that means but given
the context I think I can make a guess.
And it was something I said in my sleep,
what I said about religion and God,
so maybe I have a demon. And I
shouldn’t snooze in church or Sunday School,
that’s another sin, but I didn’t get
much sleep last night. I went to bed too late
because I was up reading comic books
’til almost ten o’clock, Superboy
and the Legion of Superheroes in
the thirtieth century, and this is
the twentieth, and ten centuries ago
it was the tenth century, the Dark Ages,
so the twentieth must look the same
to folks in the thirtieth even though
they don’t even exist. Yet. I call that

literature. I don’t remember my
dream in Sunday School class, and I was out
for only a few seconds, I think, when
my dream interrupted reality,
or maybe it’s the other way around.
So I walked home from my church with my head down
but I wasn’t praying, and like girls do
when they’re studying their shoes or skirts or
legs. When I got back Mother and Father
asked me why I came home so early. What
could I say? I should’ve prepared something
on the way home but I was too busy
feeling stupid and ashamed and confused,

or grown up, in other words, Yes, that’s it.
So I sat at the kitchen table and
took off my clip-on bow tie and passed it
across to Father and said quietly
but firmly, I quit. This is horseshit
so let’s not kid one another. Mother
gasped–for a moment I thought Miss Hooker
had followed me home–and dropped the three
napkins she was about to pass around.
They floated like butterflies to the red
linoleum but still I heard them crash.
Then Father started laughing and Mother
turned away, but I know she was smiling.
I picked up the napkins but hit my head
on the table, coming up. Father laughed
again, even harder. And Jesus wept

or maybe that was me. All the bleeding.

Categories: Poetry

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