By Gale Acuff

Play Dead

I’m not afraid to die but I’m afraid
anyhow, I’m not stupid even if
I’m only ten years old and I know death
can come at any time, it took my mutt
out on the turnpike where it was prowling,
death, not my dog, and struck him but good and
left him in the middle of the fast lane
to be run over maybe a million

more times and when he didn’t come home for
three days I went looking for him and spied
him from the back seat of the school bus, I
just happened to have turned my back to dodge
a wadded-up Almond Joy candy bar
wrapper and I’m proud to say that it missed
me but only because I helped it and

there he was, what was left of the body
of my pal and as for his soul maybe
death delivered it to God and now he’s
in pet-Heaven, Caesar that is,
and I hope to see him someday and ask
if he knew what hit him like I knew what
hit me when I saw his all-broken and
black-bloody body and then command him
to shake and roll over and speak and play

dead, if he bites me for that one, good boy.


I don’t want to die but some people are
already or almost and I don’t mean
zombies or vampire or Elvis Presley
but ordinary folks who never get
extra- and that includes me even though
in dreams I’m anyone I want to be
and even anything, last night I was
the plane and not the pilot and I flew

all by myself, I didn’t need handling
but anyway let me live forever
and I’ll be as happy even if I get
so weak that I can’t get around well, I’ll
just stay in one place and fall asleep for
good, say a thousand years from now instead
of the seventy or eighty I’ll have
coming unless of course God sends death for

me and kills me dead before my time but
it’s always God’s time is what they say at
church and Sunday School, I guess they should know,
it’s in the Bible somewhere and I’m just
ten years old, not quite old enough to know
much but I think I’d be happier dead
at 1,000 than 10, I mean of course
if I’m not already. I rest my case

All is Well

God loves me they swear at Sunday School and
Jesus and the Holy Ghost, maybe
the angels as well and Virgin Mary
and others but if God loves me then why
did He make me I asked my teacher when
Sunday School was over and she said Well
and sometimes when people begin with Well
when they’re about to explain it means that
they’re not sure of what they’re about to spiel,
the truth of it, that is, but anyway
I’m only 10 to her 25 so
I listened, in books it’s dutifully,
and she continued with one more Well and
then Gale, you’re suggesting that He’d love you
better if He’d never made you but that’s
not reasonable, no, He made you so
He could love you, to say He’d love you more
if He’d never made you doesn’t make sense.

Then I said I love you, Miss Hooker. Well.

For the Record

John Lennon sings that he knows what it’s like
to be dead as my sister listens, eyes
closed but she’s not asleep and not truly
resting, she’s been taken somewhere in her
head and John Lennon’s the taker, I guess,
and I’m only 10 to her 17
but where she’s going I’ll go, too, one day,
with or without John Lennon, and when the song
ends I can tell from her faint smile that it

hasn’t, somehow it’s still playing and she’s
listening, so I shut my eyes and sure
enough I hear it, too, but it scares me
while pleasing her and that’s what being grown-
up, or almost, means, the two become one,
like you’ve married yourself to yourself – as
for children you spin ’em off, like B-sides.

Bride of Christ

I don’t want to die but I have, at least
I did, which means, I guess, that I’m dead now
or resurrected, I’m risen from it,
death I mean, but I don’t remember and
because I don’t remember then maybe
I really do but somehow that’s life and
if I can ever explain exactly
how then maybe I’ll live eternally,

that’s what I told my Sunday School teacher
after class this morning and she had to
sit down and the Hell of it was she
already was, sitting down that is, now
there’s proof of God and don’t you forget it
I tell myself. Then I raise me up again.

Gale Acuff has poetry published in AscentReed, Poet Lore, Chiron ReviewCardiff ReviewPoemAdirondack Review, Florida ReviewSlantNeboArkansas Review, South Dakota ReviewRoanoke Review,and many other journals in eleven countries. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives. He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine. 

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