When I’m sick and home from school I can hear
the children at recess. I walk to school
–and back again, of course–when I’m well. So
if it’s not in our back yard it’s next door.
Well, across the street, really. I can see
the Flag from my attic bedroom. Could it
see me if it had 50 eyes, not stars?
Still, stars seem to see me at night, at least
when I’m outside. Sometimes I see them see
me. They’re far away but am I to them?

Mother brings me soda and crackers. Thanks,
I say. How do you feel, she asks. She’s so
concerned that I don’t want to say Better
–I don’t want to spoil her mood and I like
when she worries about me but not too
much. If I thought I was about to die
just see how fast I’d recover for her.
She leaves. I tongue a cracker for the salt
and sip some soda for the sugar. That’s
life, I guess–what’s sweet and its opposite.
Together they will settle my stomach,
unless I throw them up, of course. I reach
for my Superboy comic. Kryptonite
can kill him. Also magic. Not the flu,
though. Still, kryptonite can’t hurt me. Magic
–that’s all about tricks anyway, at least in real
life. Hmm. So I’m stronger than Superboy
when I think about it. In other ways,
weaker, I guess. But he doesn’t exist
except in a comic. Neither do I
to him. Anyway, I can’t concentrate.
He’s moving even when he’s not flying
and it hurts my eyes to try to focus
so I put him down. I’ll have some music.

I turn on my transistor radio
and move the tuner to local stations
but there are commercials on every one
and I want to hear some Beatles or Kinks
or Rolling Stones. Even the Four Seasons
would do. I turn it off and close my eyes.
Behind my lids it’s dark like the night but
my eyes are open to what lies behind
and I see tiny specks of light like those
I see when my room is dark, the curtains
closed but my eyes open. They’re like stars,
more like galaxies, and I wonder if
they see me seeing them. One day I’ll die

and I’ll know the answers to everything,
even the things I don’t have questions for.
I like being sick because when I’m well
I never seem to think about the things
that matter. I’d be sick all the time if
I could get away with it but there’s school
to go to, and a job, one day, and girls,
and getting married and having children
and taking care of them when they’re sick, too.
And stars. I’ll bet the stars will be there
for them. Maybe they’ll ask the same questions.
Then I’ll die and later, if they’re healthy,
they’ll die, too, and then their children, and their
children’s children. Now I’m feeling better
because life goes on even if I don’t,
and I won’t, of course. I wonder where I’ll
be, or if I’ll even be at all. When
Mother returns I’ll ask her. She’s brilliant.

 

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.