The Pragmatic Mystic

A selection of poetry by Gale Acuff


I don’t want to die I’ll say to God when

or if I make Heaven and then add ha

ha and wink because I’m only joking

or is that I will only be joking

and I wonder how He’ll react, if He’ll

wink back and / or repeat ha ha and if

He’ll be good-humored about it or just

sarcastic but then after a pause I

might ask Him if in fact I do have to

die again, if this afterlife’s the one

that counts and if I shalt have no other

afterlives before me, or would that be

after, but at Sunday School they tell us

children that when we die once that’s plenty

and I hope to Hell they’re right because I

spent most of my life, my living

life I mean, afraid of dying so I

don’t want to worry about it again

when I’m dead and when you think about it

they do call it life eternal and life

everlasting and the life to come and

of course the Afterlife, I mean that it’s

life, life, life, life, life — there’s just no getting

away from it so dying yet again —

and I hate to say it - makes good sense

but last night I dreamt that I was sitting

in Sunday School and our teacher turned in

— to Jesus and then dismissed us early

but I hung back to talk to Him and He

turned into our teacher again. Good Lord.


One day when I’m dead then maybe I’ll be

happy like I’m happy now but more so,

I mean happier than I am now, if

that’s possible, I think so, comic books

make me happy, I buy two every

Friday night when Mother and Father and

I eat out, I’m wasting my allowance

they say but I say right back It’s mine to

waste, then Father looks at me sternly and

then grins, it’s not exactly a smile, it’s

more and less at the same time, I guess

that you have to know Father, so after we

chow I go to the drug store next to the Korn

Dawg King and look the comic four-colors over, in

1966 they’re only twelve cents

each and my allowance is a quarter

but that buys more then than it does now and

the leftover penny’s for Uncle Sam

or maybe Governor Sanders or may

-be they split it - I wonder if they fight

for it, I guess not but still it would make

a good story, maybe one day I’ll be

a writer and write it but wonder if

why the two are at peace I want ‘em to

slug it out as if I’m God but if I’m

God why would I want war and not peace so

I laid it out for Mother and Father

on the drive home and Mother said Well,

I de-clare but she declared nothing and

Father laughed and said The world’s a strange place,

that’s a fact and Mother agreed but I

kept my peace, being God. Speaking of dead.


I’m not afraid of a little old thing

like death I tell myself after Sunday

School lets out and as I’m walking home but

I guess I am afraid, God and Jesus

and the Holy Ghost get pretty spooky

sometimes and who needs Satan when those Three

are enough to keep me nervous at night,

so when I die I don’t want to meet Them,

none of the four, They’re like the four horsemen

in their own way, no, when I die I want

just to be left alone, in my coffin’s

okay if my soul can take the confines,

probably so, I’m little for age 10

and will probably always be, Mother

used to tell me that when you die

you sleep forever, you never wake up,

which might not be so bad and makes up for

all those mornings I had to go to school

when I didn’t want to, especially

in winter and no heat in the house but

the kitchen stove so I lay buried be

-neath sheets and blankets and the bedspread, good

practice for when I’m croaked and avoiding

meeting my Maker and my un-maker,

Satan, and like I say I’m not afraid,

which means that I really am, I just want

to be braver — I love God but it’s hard

to when He’s got so much to do with death

and if not for that He’s never around,

of course there’s Christmas, but that’s Santa Claus,

or Easter morning, but that’s the Bunny.

Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in several countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.

 © 2020 þ (Thorn) Literary Magazine                                                                        

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