A Poem by Gale Acuff

Portents

On Sunday mornings I wake early for
church–Sunday School, really–because I’ll see
Miss Hooker, my teacher, who’s prettier
than a spotted pony. She has spots, too
–freckles on her face and neck and arms and
hands and legs, what of her legs I can see,
and maybe everywhere else I can’t. Sin

is what it is to think of those other
places but I can’t help myself, I’m in
love and it’s hopeless because I’m only
10 and she must be 25 or so,
kind of old especially since I’m young.
Still, I dream that she and I are married.
We sit on the sofa and watch TV,
Ed Sullivan and Gunsmoke and I Spy,
and share a pan of popcorn and some Tang
with two straws but no ice. And some peanuts.
Then when Johnny Carson’s over we go
to bed in the same room and even sleep

in the same bed, where I hold her close ’til
she falls asleep. Then I turn on the lamp
on the nightstand on my side and read my
comic books, or if I can’t get to sleep
tiptoe out to the living room to watch
some creature-feature. And we’re rich so we
don’t worry about getting up early.
One morning I woke and between us there

in bed was a baby. Hey, Miss Hooker,
I called to her–she was softly snoring
like Mother does, and my dog–Miss Hooker
wake up, somebody left a baby here.
(I call her Miss Hooker still–I don’t know
her first name, but Honey or Sugar-lips
might be good). She rolled over toward me
and smiled with her eyes half-shut, which means half-
opened, too, and said, Darling, that’s your son,
and I said, Well, I’ll be darned, so that’s how
that happens, you’re married a spell and then

BANG, you wake up one morning and there you
are, I mean, there it is. I mean, there he
is, or she, as the case may be. That was
last night’s dream. Once I dreamt that Miss Hooker
died when she was 100 and I
was only 85. I was alone
except for some pesky grandchildren. I
visited her grave every Sunday,
it was quiet like church and the only
singing was from birds and nobody passed
a collection plate around and there was
no sermon save for the silent kind, when

your mind seems empty but it’s really full
of all the things that words can’t talk about
or at least don’t waste their time trying to.
Hello Miss Hooker, I said. How are you
this fine morning? She didn’t answer but
sometimes silence is that way, Can’t complain,
it means. And then I started to cry and
each time I tried to focus on the stone
it looked like it was moving, changing shape,
but it was the tears clinging to my eyes
like angels that distorted what I saw,
unless of course it was God’s doing, God

bringing death back to life after all His
years of retirement since Jesus was killed,
so I wiped my eyes and everything
was back to normal. I wasn’t as scared
but some lonelier. So I walked on home,
looking back now and then to see her stone
shrinking, and the last time I looked it was
no bigger than a sugar cube, maybe
even no bigger than a tooth–all those
teeth in the mouth of the cemetery
and me walking out that tongue of a road,
and I jumped awake thinking something had
tried to swallow me. I think that’s what’s called
a portent. The Bible’s chock-full of ’em.
Now it’s another Sunday morning. I
don’t really want to go to church today
but if I don’t I’ll have no reason to

come back home again, or go to sleep and
dream again tonight about Miss Hooker
until my time in dreams of her seems real
and being awake is the real dreaming.
Saying so, I’ve probably sinned again,
and if I die before I’m forgiven
I’ll probably go to Hell, or maybe
go anyway. But if death’s a good dream
you never wake from, I’m glad that I’ve lived
if only to die. I’d do it again.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

About Gale Acuff
 
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Worcester Review, Verse Wisconsin, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Poem, Amarillo Bay, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. Acuff 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).

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