Childhood Poems of Gale Acuff

1 /of/ 2
Mercy
My dog's dead, run-over dead, just as dead
as a dog can get, if not deader.
I found him on the highway this morning,
on my way to catch the schoolbus. There he lies
as we pull away. Hey, Acuff, someone says
ain't that your mutt run-over there? Shit!
True, I say. When school's over and the bus
brings me home Caesar's deader than ever.
I get off and go to the workshed
for the shovel and walk back to the highway.

When there's a break in the traffic,
I scrape him loose and drag him off by his tail.
I wonder if that hurts him. No, of course not—
it does hurt me, though, in my heart, or
is it my soul. Or maybe it's just my brain,
if I really have one. I'm puzzled.
Then I go back to the shed for the wheelbarrow
and close my eyes and pick Caesar up
and put him in. Then I roll us to the house
and around back and below the garden,
where I dig a hole and then set him in
and cover him over and don't cry once,
not even once, although I know I will,
sometime. At supper Mother and Father say
We're sorry about Caesar, he
was a good dog, he sure was, that's a fact.

Thanks, I say. I'm picking at my pork chop
when I start to blubber. Poor boy, they say.

Now in my attic bedroom I'm closer
to Heaven, if there is one. If there is
Caesar's there. If there's not there's no justice.
I never pray—it's too corny—but tonight
I do. O, Lord, I say, Thy will be done,
as if I could stop You. I take that back,

I add. I don't want to be a wise guy.

Last night at this time Caesar was with me
on the bed while I read a comic book.
I don't understand life but I live it.
One day I'll die and be quit of it, too,
and maybe see God and maybe even
Caesar again. But tomorrow's more school.


2 /of/ 2
Rate
When God says His prayers I wonder to
whom. If I didn't have a God I'd get
lonely, forget that He's probably not
real because I guess I make Him so, I
kind of create God in my image and
this morning after Sunday School I told
Miss Hooker so, she's my teacher and you
should've seen the look on her face—no, not
even the look but her face itself, as
if she'd seen a ghost and it was I and
I'm relieved that I didn't make her drop
dead because there was nobody around
to raise her up again—oh, Jesus, sure,
but tacked to the Cross like a little doll
on the wall behind Miss Hooker's desk and
would He have descended one more time to
reconcile Heaven and earth, life and
death? Maybe someday I'll find out because
that day when I die and if I rate then
I'll go to Heaven and learn the skinny.
Until next Sunday I've got to get right
with God, Miss Hooker says, and when I'm back
next time be sure to tell her all about
it. So I let her off easy. That's grace.


Gale Acuff has had

poetry published

in 
AscentMcNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Weber, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota ReviewOrbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.