Asphyxiation

One day I’ll die. That’s what Miss Hooker said
in Sunday School this morning, my teacher
she is and I think a pretty good one
or at least pretty, red hair and green eyes
and a mole on her nose and a dimple
in the middle of her chin, or it makes
the middle, and freckles everywhere I
can see and sometimes I’d like to see more

but that’s a sin, to lust after women
but I’m only 9, what harm can I do?
Still, I don’t want to sin and go to Hell,
–I’d say that I want to sin and go to
Heaven but that would be another sin,
not just saying it but even thinking
it, like talking before you even say
it because God can read my mind and I
don’t want to sin again by suggesting
that there’s not a whole lot in my mind worth
reading, there’s not a whole lot anyway
up there, and who am I to judge myself
when I’ve got God to do it? Miss Hooker

said that we’re all going to die and that
No man knoweth the hour, and she says that
means women and children, too. I raised my
hand and asked her, What about dogs, and she
asked me back, What about what about dogs,
and for a moment I thought she might be
speaking in tongues–Praise the Lord, I damn nigh
cried, but caught myself and said, What I mean
is do dogs and other dumb animals
–not that my dog is dumb but what’s dumb
to a dog might not be dumb to people
–know when they’re going to die because if
they do and the Bible says we don’t then
maybe I should change my name to Fido?
That got me a few laughs and Miss Hooker’s

face turned as red as her hair, or almost,
but I wasn’t trying to score off her,
it’s just that religion makes me afraid,
God being everywhere and watching me
all the time and Jesus, His lieutenant,
so to speak, helping out and then the one
I know least about, the Holy Ghost, like
carbon monoxide, you can’t see Him or
smell Him but He might be there all the time
and before you know it you’re smothering,
I think it’s called asphyxiation, it
sounds worse than crucifixion, also bad.
So Miss Hooker said, Gale–I mean Fido
–you may leave the room and go bark outside,
which was her way of kicking me out, so

that’s why I’m walking home from church early
today. I’ll bet it’s like being exiled,
like Moses was by Pharoah but Moses
came back and freed all his people and some
who weren’t even his, I’ll bet, and led ‘em
out of Egypt into the Promised Land
and you can read about it in the Book,
of course, and I’m feeling pretty moved right
now to march straight back to class and open
the door and say, Charlotte (that’s Miss Hooker’s
name, Charlotte Hooker, it rhymes with harlot,
that’s in the Bible, too), let my people
go, just to see the look on her face, and
my classmates might cheer and cheer and follow

me to the Promised Land, what that is for
us I don’t really know, maybe my house
to watch The Three Stooges, which we’re missing,
or down to the Dairy Dip for ice cream
or to the vacant lot for some baseball.
It would be a revolution is what
it would be except we don’t want control,
we just want to be left the Hell alone
seeing as how we just want to fit in
and to be part of whatever it is
we’re missing, and Miss Hooker makes it hard

but I guess the Great Escape is death
and you don’t have to come back, exactly,
but you can be resurrected and from
what I hear it’s a pretty nice life up
in Heaven–Miss Hooker says that God will
take us when He pleases, and not before,
and I guess I’m ready now, or should be,
all I have to do is not look both ways
when I cross the road to our house but I
just can’t do it, something inside me won’t
let me get run over by a car and

there’s my dog, who needs me to feed him and
play with him and I wish I could ask him
if he worries about when he’ll die but
he’d never answer. He’s too smart for that.

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in many journals and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine. He now teaches in Guza, Sichuan province, China.

Leave a Reply