Gale Acuff, Linoleum

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in various journals, including Ascent, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many others.

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.


There’s nobody I love more than Jesus
except for Miss Hooker, my Sunday School
teacher and the woman I’m going to
marry one day, when I’m old enough, she
already is, 25, but I’m just
10 so I have a ways to go before
I can make her the happiest woman
alive and maybe even dead, maybe
in Heaven some woman’s happier but
somehow she doesn’t count while Miss Hooker’s
still kicking down here. If she’ll stay single
then I can splice with her when I’m 18
and she’ll be 33, pretty old but
I’ll pretend not to notice her red hair
going gray and her green eyes dulling up
and her freckles falling into wrinkles.
We’ll get married and have some babies fast
before it’s too late and when Miss Hooker
dies we’ll visit her grave every Sunday
after church, I guess, and stand with heads bowed
and weep and water her grave with our tears
and all that. Then it will be my turn to
die, a few years later if nothing goes
wrong to kill me off unnaturally,
and then the kids’ turns, too, until we’re all
with Miss Hooker together in Heaven,
unless of course God sends her to Hell, or
Jesus does, because she sinned in some way
no one figured on, hardly even God.
I guess before I ask her for her hand
I’d better get her to confess her sins
to me, and I’ll tell her about mine, too,
if she asks. If she doesn’t, I’ll forgive.


I don’t want to die but then again why
not, it’ll be something different to do.
Miss Hooker’s my Sunday School teacher and
says that I’ll go to Heaven or Hell and
the way I’m going now I’m headed for
Hell because I’m not saved and not washed in
the Blood of the Lamb 
— yuck, even if it’s
just a figure of speech. She may be right
— I do sin a Hell of a lot for 10
and hardly ever say my prayers save
when I’m about to get into a fight
and never ask God to forgive my sins
or Jesus or the Holy Spirit but
haven’t they got better things to do, like
stop the earth from crashing into the sun
or the moon into the earth or earthquakes
and tornados everywhere? Which would keep
even Superman humping all day long.
So after class I went up to her desk
to say goodbye and See you next week and
she asked me to get down on my knees with
her and pray for the Holy Spirit to
come into my heart and into my soul
and into my life and so on and so
on, I forget what all she said, she said
it all so prettily, beautifully
even, so I did and she did, got down
on the linoleum and closed our eyes
or she did, I kept one open, the one
farthest away from her, I get dizzy
otherwise, and we went through the Lord’s Prayer
again, we’d said it twice-over in class,
I’ve practically got it memorized,
and then she prayed for me to get saved and
said she felt the presence of the Holy
Spirit. I was going to say, It’s just
the wind through the window
, half-open and
half-shut, but that’s how religion is, it’s
Nature by some other name, some other
reason but it’s kind of a sin to say
so, you must be serious in the House
of the Lord and so on. We said Amen
together and got back on our feet and
Miss Hooker asked me how I felt. I said
Better, which was a lie and thus a sin
but it made her smile, it was a good lie
but another strike against me, I guess.
Who the Hell knows? She’s sure got pearly teeth.


I’ve got to get saved to go to Heaven
but I like to sin too much and for ten
years old I’ve done my share of it, sinning,
because it’s a good way to have fun or
one way anyway. I’m going to Hell
if I die in sin, Miss Hooker says, she’s
my Sunday School teacher and her job is
to save my immortal soul from the flames
of Hell, which is nice of her and I don’t
think that she’s getting paid extra for that
and if I was God I’d sure as Hell give
her a bonus, maybe at Christmastime.
Sometimes she keeps me after class to pray
with me, which is alright, I don’t mind, there’s
nothing on TV and I hardly do
my homework anyway, which is why I’m
failing the fourth grade but as long as I
get to go to Heaven in the end it
doesn’t matter, so I guess I’d better
get myself saved. Miss Hooker’s really tried
to help me. After class we’re on our knees
praying on the thin plywood floor of our
portable classroom and when she stands up
I see the red marks on her knees. That’s some
faith, that is. Then she’s done with her praising
and weeping and shouting and speaking in
tongues though it sounds like gibberish to me
but what do I know, I can hardly speak
English as it is and speaking in tongues
is the language God uses, I guess. So

far I’m still not saved. I’m running out of
time, Miss Hooker says, to make it right with
God. I must repent, she says, if I want
to be happy forever in Heaven
but to get there I’ve got to die first, get
eternal life after death. That’s crazy
but that’s religion, at least ours. Let’s say
that by some miracle I don’t go to
Hell — then I’ll ask God up in Heaven why
He made everything the way He did.
I wonder if He’ll have a good answer.
It’s not that I don’t believe, I just think
that I could’ve done better myself. I
guess I could do even worse. That’s my point.

Day of Rest

After Sunday School I thank God that it’s
over and I can walk home and put on
my old clothes and eat lunch and then goof off
like I guess God does, it’s His day of rest
after all, and if goofing off’s a sin
then that makes God and me that much closer
and if I die on Sunday afternoon
maybe I won’t go to Hell as much as
if I die some other day, die in sin
Miss Hooker calls it, she’s my Sunday School
teacher and I’ll bet she never sins since
she’s probably already saved, she says
she is anyway and that I should get
saved, too, if I don’t want to go to Hell
which I guess I don’t, there’s a lot of pain
down there and it lasts forever, she says,
but in Heaven everything is rosy
eternally, which is like forever
but happier. I wonder if God prays
but Miss Hooker says that God was Jesus
and Jesus prayed, so that means God prayed, too,
so there you go. I should be a preacher
but I’ll settle for being the greatest

baseball player who ever lived, even
the greatest who never lived, if that makes
sense, I’ll bet to God that it does. One day
I’ll get to meet Him, when I’m dead that is,
standing, at least my soul, there in front of
His throne to hear Him tell me that I’ll go
to Heaven or Hell. It’s going to be
close, I think. If I die on Sunday then
I’ll remind Him that nobody’s perfect
and that He could’ve done some extra work but
that I forgive Him, “Sometimes I expect
too much from You.” I’d like to see the look
on His face then, unless of course I hurt
His feelings. Then I’d do the right thing and
send myself to Hell and if He tries
to hold me back I’ll shake Him off and say
“Let this be a lesson to both of us,”
and then I’ll be off to meet Satan. “Christ,”
he’ll say, “that was pretty good what you did
up there.” “Oh, go to Hell,” I’ll say. Funny.

Meat and Potatoes

There’s nobody I love more than I love
God and that’s saying something, God’s as big
as love gets, I guess, and then there’s Jesus
and the Holy Ghost but for number
four I have to go with Miss Hooker, my
Sunday School teacher and unlike God and
Jesus and the Holy Ghost she’s got guts,
a real body I mean, and what’s more red
hair and green eyes and freckles, and though she’s
pretty old, 25 to my 10, she’s
not as old as the Big Three are, I mean
God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Man

does not live by bread alone, she says, and
she’s right, there’s also meat and potatoes
but that’s not the point and what the point is
is that there’s something religious to love
which I can’t deny and wouldn’t if I
could but I want someone to love me who
not only has one made of real flesh and
blood and bone, and a little perfume is
nice — a body I mean — but who one day
will let me touch it, her body that is,
since kissing, kissing hard and like you mean
it, like wishing as hard as you can for
something, makes babies and with Miss Hooker
I want some, want to be married I mean,
married to her and Miss Hooker to me
and then maybe I’ll be satisfied and
can focus on God like I should but it’s
hard to love someone, even God, who’s so

far away and yet He made you and you
can pray like the Devil to Him but still
you don’t know if you’re really saved until
you’re dead. When I’m old enough to ask her
out, Miss Hooker I mean, then I’ll court
her and win her and that way we’ll save each
other, at least for a while, until we
remember to love God more, Our God is
a jealous God
, she says, but how I feel
is that He might have hurt feelings, being
abandoned while Miss Hooker and I love.
I guess we’ll cozy up to Him again
and get forgiven for breaking His heart.
When we’re dead we’ll put Him back together.

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