I've got Miss Hooker in my hip pocket.

That's a figure of speech. Actually

I've got her in my heart and on my mind

and my billfold in my hip pocket. Right

hip. Those are figures of speech, too, I mean

the stuff about my heart and mind. In my

billfold I have a photo of my folks

and me when I was five, five years ago.

I'm 10 now. And one of my dog but he

was run over last month but he's alive

still, at least in the photo, and in my

heart. I guess in my mind, too. And I guess

in Heaven, or at least dog-Heaven, there

with Old Shep and Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.

Could be dog-Heaven is a kennel but

maybe he's roaming free, no cars yonder

to smash him and others to run over

him over and over and over. That's

how I found him when I came home from church

that fateful day--that's a figure of speech

too. It's kind of corny but so what. It


hurt when I found him, I mean my soul

if I have one. I guess I do because

it hurt. I had to get the shovel and

scrape the rest of him that I couldn't

pick up and carry away. Yuck. I threw

up after I took him behind the house

in the wheelbarrow to bury him by

the back fence, below the garden. But I

got his grave dug all the same, not too deep

so that his soul wouldn't have so far to

go to get to Heaven and wouldn't have

to claw through too much dirt, clay mostly. Love


goes to pieces like that, like he did. That's

a figure of speech, too. I can't stop them.

There are plenty of them, figures of speech

I mean. But love comes back together, too.

In fact I love him even more now. I

wish I could tell him. Sometimes I try when

I say my prayers every night, right

after the Lord's Prayer and one for my folks.

It's not that I love him better but he's

dead and they're not and to be fair they have

an advantage over him but maybe

he's got it all over us because he's

in Heaven, even if only dog-Heaven.

I should be so lucky to die and go

there. As it is I might wind up in Hell


because I'm responsible for him, or

was, and I didn't teach him to stay clear

of traffic. So if I didn't kill him I

helped. That means I'm an accessory. Try

as I might I just can't be innocent

but then I wonder if what's innocent

must die but I guess it must, sooner or

later, because everything dies if

it's not dead already or never was

alive, like the hole that I dug for him

and the clay that holds his body down

and keeps it from other dogs, and raccoons,

who would dig him up again. I still check

his grave everyday to make sure he's

still in there. I mean to say I look for


signs. I don't want us to be disturbed. I

hope his soul has wriggled free and gone to

Heaven. From looking at the dirt on top

I can't tell so the proof I need is faith.

We bury people a lot deeper. I

guess it takes their souls longer to escape.

That makes sense. We're a lot more civilized.

I asked Miss Hooker--she's my Sunday School

teacher. I told her my story and she

started to cry. That means she's my girlfriend.

Note :

When I was in primary school I attended the local church (Methodist). I walked there. My parents were Episcopalian but changed their membership because they weren't keen on attending church anyway and they would've had to drive me to Sunday School a few miles away. I also walked to my primary school. This was in east Cobb County, Georgia, which was still rural in those days (the mid-60s). My world was as far as I could walk, I suppose. Once a week or so my father would load us all into the station wagon and drive us to the A & P grocery in Marietta. 

I never enjoyed church services--too long and too loud--but Sunday School was alright. Perhaps the gathering of a dozen kids and a young and attractive teacher (well, my speakers think that she's attractive in a Gothic, grotesque sort of way, what with her red hair and green eyes and freckles, and a ten-year-old boy is as likely to be drawn to the . . . unusual as to anything else) to spend an hour in the pursuit of godliness--well, there's much that can be evocative in that situation. Then too, the American South is still very much a place of biblical truths and half-truths, as steeped in those as in the memory of the Civil War. These things are a part of my heritage, and I witnessed many profound changes as I grew, e.g., school integration.

I had one editor, not too long ago, who accused me of plagiarizing myself in my poems. (She was very angry). There may be something to that, but, to me, it's mainly metaphysical, because I get a lot of mileage out of my boyhood experiences, and it may be that I'll come to realize that Miss Hooker is symbolic in a way which I haven't yet realized. 


Gale Acuff has been published in 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.