by Gale Acuff
In Sunday School today Miss Hooker said
that no man knows when he’s going to die
so he’d better be prepared. I slogged home
and slouched into the kitchen and sat down
at the table for lunch, bacon and eggs
and grape Tang, and Sanka and Lucky Strikes
for my parents, the Sunday newspaper
between them on the other side. How was
church today, Father asked, without looking
- Yes, said Mother, lighting a Lucky.
into my scrambled eggs. I can’t stop and
my sobs leap to howls. What the Hell is wrong,
asks Father. I think he’s looking now but
I don’t look back. What’s the matter, Honey,
Mother asks. I find my napkin and blow
my nose. I need to wipe my eyes but I
should’ve done that first and I can’t see to
find another napkin. Oh, I don’t know,
I wail–I just feel bad, I guess. Jesus
wants you to be happy, Mother says. Right
says Father. Listen to your mother there.
I finish eating and go to my room,
in the attic. It’s like an upper room,
I guess. I undress and put on my new clothes
I guess that I’m old wine in a new skin,
or am I more like new wine in an old?
I lie on my bed, look at the ceiling,
and hope it will open into Heaven
–suddenly it’s dark because I’ve fallen
asleep. There’s nothing inside me but night
and if I dream I don’t remember it.
Then I’m awake and my eyes are new so
the ceiling’s even brighter, so I’ve made
it, almost–I’m damn near on the verge of
going to Heaven but it’s not my time
yet but at least I’m getting closer. I
go downstairs. Father watches baseball on
- Mother’s lying on the couch. Both
at least until they wake. And when they do
I’m going to treat them as though they’ve been
resurrected. And I’m going to touch
them to see if they’re real. And if they are
I’m going to go down on my knees and
tell them that I love them and beg them
to forgive me and when they ask What for?
I’ll say, I don’t know–I’ll think of something.