I know that God loves me but I’d rather
have Miss Hooker do that and love me more
than God does or God loves Miss Hooker or
she loves Him or even I do. She’s my
Sunday School teacher and a damned good one
and I give her all my attention each
Sunday morning for an hour when I first
see her until she says, Goodbye, children
–see you next week and God bless you. I hang
around whenever I can, to help her
pack away her portable felt board or
stack the hymnals or straighten the desks or
walk her to her Mercury Bobcat, which
is like a Ford Pinto but won’t explode
as often but if it ever did she’d
wind up in Heaven sure, though her body
would be roasted like the bodies in Hell
but she’ll get a new one in Heaven, she
told us so herself. And I’ll miss her but
that will be a good reason not to sin
anymore, so that when I die I’ll go
myself and see her again and ask her
Do you remember me, Miss Hooker–Gale
–first desk in the middle row, and wearing
the blue clip-on bow tie? Of course she will,
remember that is, because there’s nothing
up in Heaven that’s not perfect. But
if I go to Hell I’ll be tortured by
memories of her so I guess I’ll burn
in more ways than one. What I’d better do
is stop sinning now, a miracle if
there ever was one but Miss Hooker says
if my faith’s the size of a mustard seed
then I could tell a mountain to move and
it would. Wow. Or maybe that was Jesus
but it’s the same difference, Miss Hooker
and He are pretty tight–when she leads us
in the Lord’s Prayer she seems to mean it
and isn’t afraid to close her eyes and
let down her guard and when she opens them
again you can tell that she’s nearly blind
but she gets her vision back and if
that isn’t saved then what is it? She’s old
but I don’t care, 25 to my 10,
so maybe if I pray plenty she’ll stay
single until I’m old enough to ask
her for a date, a date’s when you’ve got it
bad for a gal, and if I play my cards
right, even though playing cards is a sin
though that’s a figure of speech, and gambling,
she might marry me one day and then die
before I do but by then we’ll have swapped
cars so she won’t go up in flames and if
I loved God like I love Miss Hooker then
there would be no doubt I’d go to Heaven
and if God loved me like I love her then
ditto and if she loved me like she loves
Him then we’d have one Hell of a marriage.
After Sunday School I walked Miss Hooker
to her wheels and opened her door for her
and she got in and offered me a lift
but I said, No thank you, ma’am, it’s only
a half-mile walk, which I always say but
one day I might say, Yes ma’am–thank you, and
slide into the front seat and watch her steer
me home and maybe on the way we’ll sing
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” but not too much
because a half-a-mile’s not long enough
for the whole song. But wouldn’t it be grand
if we got rear-ended and the car blew
up and we woke in Heaven together?
That might be the only way I get there,
by being close to her. It’s worth a try
and next Sunday after class I’ll try it.
I’ll keep trying until I get it right.

 

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.