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Gale Acuff: a poem


I saw Miss Hooker's knees today. She's my

Sunday School teacher and it's a sin, I

mean to see her knees. I might go to Hell

for it but it was an accident so

maybe God won't burn me to a cinder

in His mercy. She was crossing her legs

and if it makes any difference I

love her and want to marry her one day,

forget that she's already old, I'd guess

twenty-five, and I'm only ten, but God's God

and you can't get miracles anywhere

else, so every night I pray like heck

that He'll work it all out for us, maybe

keep Miss Hooker twenty-five until I

can get old enough so that people won't

talk that she's too old when I'm old enough

to propose. I guess I'll get down on one

knee like they do on TV and dangle

a ring in front of her and hope she bites,

which she really has to, seeing as how

God already took the trouble to get

me that far. That would also make up for

my seeing her knees, which was, like I say,

and would swear on the Bible, a mistake

– unless God planned it that way, set a trap

so I'd fall, but not too much, just enough

to fulfill His plan for me. I mean for

us, Miss Hooker and me. They were pretty

– her knees I mean, and a good team, and if

the rest of her is just as pleasant then

I can't complain, the rest of her I can't

see, I mean. What I do see looks fine, her

red hair and green eyes, though when the light's right

the left one, I mean her left one, looks blue.

Then there's that M&M mole on her nose,

a brown M&M I mean, but no hair

sprouting from it, and that dimple in her

chin and, best of all, a million freckles

like stars in the universe. A billion,

then. A trillion. Zillion. I'd connect them

if I could, the way you make a picture,

like the one of Jesus in our workbook.

Sometimes after Sunday School I walk her

to her Ford Falcon and open her door

and look away, but at nothing, when she

climbs in, and don't look back at her until

I feel it's safe. And then I shut the door

hard so that it won't pop open again

when she drives off or is rolling out of

my sight. It wouldn't do to have her dead,

not if I'm not going to go to Hell.

This morning after Sunday School I said

I love you, ma'am, to her, but forgot that

her window was still rolled up, yet still she

heard, which is a kind of miracle, too,

but as I was walking home it hit me

halfway that maybe she just read my lips.

Aw, Jesus Christ, I cried at the sun. I

hope God didn't hear me but I'm not counting

on it – and it's a thing men do, love God

but not go overboard, fear Him but don't

be mortified because, after all, He's

one of us, kind of, or at least Jesus

was, or is that is? I've got to be brave.

Anyway, Miss Hooker smiled. I saw her

tongue and some of the inside of her mouth,

and two gold teeth. And some gum.

Sometimes at night I hold my pillow close,

or on cold nights, when we let the dog in,

her. I can't live without you, I whisper.

But she's already asleep, poor baby.

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in AscentReed, Poet Lore, Chiron Review, Cardiff Review, PoemAdirondack Review, Florida ReviewSlantNeboArkansas Review, South Dakota ReviewRoanoke Review, and many other journals in eleven countries. He is the author of three books of poetry: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

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