Angels

Angels
By Gale Acuff
 

In Sunday School today I fell asleep
so Miss Hooker woke me. She’s my teacher.
When I opened my eyes I thought she was
an angel, though she didn’t have wings and
I’m not sure if angels have red hair and
green eyes and freckles. And glasses, the kind
with lenses inside the lenses, I guess
to see into souls. Anyway, she said
Welcome back, Gale, I thought we’d lost you, and
my classmates laughed. If you’re lost you go to
Hell, Miss Hooker says that the Bible says,
but I don’t think that’s what she meant, I hope
not, because I’d rather go to Heaven
if I’ve got to go anywhere at all,
I don’t really want to die, I like life

so far, summer vacations and Christmas
holidays and my dog and baseball and
comic books and checkers and Yahtzee and
farting and bubblegum and Bonanza
and wrestling and Woody Woodpecker. What
am I leaving out? Maybe in Heaven
I could have all these things but I doubt it,
they’re not in the Bible, not that I read
it much. And they’re sure as Hell not in Hell
–ha, that’s funny. Then Miss Hooker said
if I was sure that I’d had enough rest
then we could continue with class but if
I thought I needed more then everyone
would join me. I think that’s called sarcasm
because we really wouldn’t take a nap
together. My classmates laughed again. I
sat up straight and said, No ma’am, I’m ready
and I’m sorry, but I guess the damage
had been done and so I sinned again–and
in church of all places–but if I was
a lawyer I’d point out that Sunday School
isn’t exactly the same as church no
matter that they’re on the same property
and connected to each other but who
would I point that out to? God? Or Jesus?
Maybe to Miss Hooker but she might think
I’m being a smart ass–aleck I mean.
At the end of class she called on me to

lead us all in the Lord’s Prayer, which
I did, without a single mistake save
I peeked at her as we were all praying
just so I could see what she looks like dead
even though she was sitting up pretty
straight and breathing and her lips were moving
and I heard her voice. But her eyes were closed
is what I mean, like dead folks on TV
at least. And then we all hollered Amen
and I was almost free but Miss Hooker
called me back and as I stood before her
stood up and said, Try to get more sleep on
Saturday nights, and then passed her fingers
through my hair, which was alright because I
always comb it before I come to church,
Mother used to do that but she’s dead so
she doesn’t do it nearly as often.
And then I’m damned if she didn’t kiss me

on the forehead, I guess because Mother
is still pretty newly gone. Seven weeks.
Then Miss Hooker said, Say hello to your
father for me. I said, Yes ma’am, I will,
and Please say hello to Mother for me
–it just slipped out, or not even that, I
just said it and hadn’t thought to say it.
I certainly will, Miss Hooker said–she
covered her mouth but too late, the words got
away. I said, Thank you, anyway. Now
I know who she really is. Holy cow.

 

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Gale Acuff has had poetry published in several literary magazines including Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Ottawa Arts Review, Worcester Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Arkansas Review, Carolina Quarterly, Poem, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. He 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). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

This piece of poetry has been picked from a series of poems where Gale Acuff has portrayed a young boy writing about being in love with Miss Hooker, his Sunday School teacher.
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