Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review,
Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina
, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, 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).
Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

To Begin With

Nobody loves me like I want them to
and I told my Sunday School teacher just
that and she laughed and she said that's the way
of the world but Jesus said He over
-came the world
so I said Yes ma'am and then
Goodbye because class was over and what
Sunday's worth was pretty much over, too,
even though it was only high noon so
I walked home wondering about what she
meant and now it's late afternoon, I fell

asleep after lunch and I figure that
folks must love one another very damn
deeply, more than they do on TV or
in movies and comic books and real books,
too, it's love of the best kind, like
Jesus is the very best guy, a cut
above but many cuts, like all the stripes
on His back which I guess built character
not that He didn't have character to

begin with but it couldn't have hurt though
of course it hurt physically but maybe
it hurt His spirit, too — why, sure it did,
but if I love a lot like I think love
is supposed to love then what do I get
in return I guess is the question, I
didn't think to ask my teacher today
so it will have to wait until next week
unless I find out for myself or I'm
dead by then. I should be so blessed twice.


One day I'll be dead and it will be all
over for me but the mortician's work
and the coffin and the burial and
(I almost forgot) the Afterlife, too,
my body back on Earth dressed up and no
place to go but my soul in Heaven wait
-ing to be judged as fitter for Heaven
or Hell and then, I guess, the end of time,
I don't really remember that part of
the Bible, I'm only ten years old, I
don't really remember anything, ha
ha, but I want to have fun wherever
I spend Eternity, Heaven or Hell,
I wonder if there's a kind of time-share
in the Hereafter, or Eternity
-share, so that I could enjoy the best of
the Good Place and the Bad so after Sun
-day School class today I told my teacher
what I want from the Life-to-Come but she
stood up from behind her desk and raised her
voice to me I'm surprised at you, young man,
wanting both when you hardly deserve one
or the other
, which surprised me, so I
just said Yes ma'am and See you next Sunday
and my teacher repeating to herself
as I walked out into the world again
all before me My word, my word, my word,
so I came back through the door and announced
In the beginning was the Word — that's all,
I forget the rest, but I was dead then
or at least not alive, like I am now.


Up in Heaven when I'm dead and alive
at the same time even though there's no time
at all but Eternity, I'm not sure
but I'll find out someday if there are still
days there, I know I'll be there long enough
to be judged, my soul that is, then allowed
to stay forever or be sent down to
Hell or in Heaven — I hope I won't be bored

is what I want to say, ditto in Hell
which is probably where I'll end up though
I'm hoping for the best but anyway
I get in trouble if there's nothing to
do and if that happens in Heaven
then it might be worse than if I do wrong

here on Earth and like I say God might send
me to Hell but I'll bet that He's got worse
punishment than that, He's God after all,
I wouldn't put anything past Him, Thou
shalt not tempt the Lord thy God
, I think that's
from the Bible somewhere but I forget

who said it, maybe God Himself or Christ
or Moses or Peter or Paul or John
or George but anyway in the end I
get to meet 'em all, I think, not that that
means I'll get to stay and hang with 'em, I'll tell
Satan all about 'em when he gets bored
or I do or maybe even bore him
with my tales about 'em and if he falls

asleep maybe I can slip out and climb
my way back to Heaven by way of Earth
and look in on folks there and if I can't
find another way to Heaven and folks
can't live with me risen from the dead I
guess I'll slink back into Hell. It's a start.


When I die and I'm in Hell at least I
won't find it so unusual, It's like
Earth down here
I'll probably say at least
to myself though of course I'll hope to see
Heavenly things there, too, I mean like those
I know on Earth as well, comic books and
pro wrestling and skateboards and pizza but
I guess I'll know for sure when I'm dead and
finding my way around down there but at
Sunday School my teacher says not to get

my hopes high because I'll probably be
chained to a rock and doused with gasoline
and set on fire and then extinguished, that
means put out and then set on fire again,
that means ignited and then extinguished
again and so on and so on over
and over and over, and it won't be
, she added, but then I blurted
No ma'am, not as pretty as you are, and
then she smiled. So now I won't be alone.

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