Gale Acuff has poetry published in Ascent, Santa Barbara Review, Descant, Ohio Journal, South Dakota Review, Grasslands Review, Poem, Maryland Poetry Review, South Carolina Review, Florida Review, Adirondack Review, and many other journals. He have 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.
At my dog’s grave after he’s been
run over by a car, truck, or bus on
the state highway in front of our house I
wish I was dead, too, and tell him so, or
maybe it’s God, or death, or maybe they’re
the same thing. Nah. Anyway, even better
is to be dead if it brings Caesar back
to life. That’s my dog’s name, Caesar. He was
famous. Not many dead people are. I
say that, too, I mean, about changing
places with him, though if my wish comes true
I might regret it. Then again, I might
not– being dead, what would I have to feel?
I’d just be asleep, but forever, be
asleep and never wake. Mother told me
that last night, before I went to bed. What
happens to people when they die, I asked.
It’s true she hesitated. Then she said
— and she thinks awfully quick on her feet
–They go to sleep. When do they wake, I asked.
Oh, they don’t she said. They don’t have to. They Preview (opens in a new window)
don’t go to school and they don’t have jobs and
every day’s like Saturday– like Sunday,
that is. Every day is a day of rest.
She’s 33. That’s old enough to know,
though in Sunday School our teacher tells us
they go to Heaven or Hell, if they’ve been
good or bad. It’s one place or the other.
My neighbors go to church where the story
is that your soul’s stuck inside your body
until the Day of Judgment. Somebody
blows a horn and then you rise, at least your
soul. Then you’re judged. There must be a long line
because there are plenty of dead people
for God to settle. Good thing He’s got help
— angels and saints, apostles and Jesus,
and the Holy Ghost. You’re done in no time.
I love Mother and I want to believe
her but she did get a speeding ticket
last week and doesn’t have a license
or she used to but they took it away.
I’d ask Father for the skinny on death
But he’d just say, Well, uh, ask your mother.
I can hear him saying it. He’s no help.
I think that when someone dies you shouldn’t
have to love them. Not hate them, either, and
not even forget them, but let them be
— you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.
Even that’s a kind of remembering
so maybe it’s best to see them again
after all, after you expire yourself.
Then I guess that everybody’s happy.
So if I just put him out of my mind
— not ignore him, exactly– then Caesar
and I will meet again. Wait a second:
Mother says that the dead snooze forever,
so if we always sleep and never wake
then when I die I won’t be sad again.
It’s easier with fish– you don’t get close.
It’s not like you’ve lost your best friend and if
your best friend is a fish then you must be
pretty far gone. My best friend was a dog
and look at me. I’ve got it pretty good.