One Day You’re Dead and There You Are

by Gale Acuff
Death and the woodcutter

Jean-François Millet, “Death and the woodcutter” (1858-1859)

One day you’re dead and there you are, alive

again but this time up in the After
-life of Heaven, or down in Hell, that’s what
the meaning of life is at our church and
Sunday School, it’s all in the Bible some
-where they tell me and sometimes I show up
late to Sunday School, I oversleep since
I stayed up too long on Saturday nights
with the Justice League and the Legion of
Super Heroes but I always appear
to save the day on Sunday mornings–not
really, because our teacher snapped at me
this morning for walking in on the mid
-dle of the Lord’s Prayer so at the end
she made me say it myself. Crucified.


Someday I’ll die and that will be the end

of me but at church and Sunday School not
so, there death’s a beginning, the After
-life of Heaven or Hell and they pull for
Heaven, where being dead is nicer than
being dead in Hell and wishing you were
even though you are, I mean that I am
or make that will be but anyway I
asked my Sunday School teacher if she looks
forward to dying since in her case death
means eternal bliss and so on but she
couldn’t answer for crying, weeping is
what the Bible calls it, as in Rachel
weeping for her children because they were
no more, which I guess means me, for God’s sake.


When I die I’ll go to the Afterlife

or Hereafter or the Life-to-Come or
whatever else my Sunday School teacher
calls it, I forget all the other names
but maybe it won’t matter because it’s
divided into Heaven and Hell and
Hell’s where I’ll probably wind up, she says,
and smiles because it’s not as though she wants
me to go there, in fact she warns me time
and again to get right with God and I
just tell her Yes ma’am and See you next week
but this morning before I left the church
I said goodbye but she said Some Sunday
you won’t be coming back, Dear so I said
Well, neither will you, ma’am. But she just laughed.


I want to go to Heaven when I die

but something tells me I won’t like it
as much as I do life on Earth and for
that matter Eternity in Hell but
my Sunday School teacher says to wait and
see when I’m deceased if all my questions
don’t fetch answers—they will if I’ve had faith
she says but I told her Well, ma’am, I don’t
really have any questions, just some con
-fusion and she laughed and said Don’t you see,
Dear, they’re the same thing but I said No ma’am,
I don’t see that at all and then she said
Well, I myself can hardly wait to die
but I’m doomed to go on here ’til God calls
me back and I said I’m damned if that’s so.


I don’t want to go to Hell when I die

but I’m sure I will although there’s no such
place, Hell neither, and sometimes I wonder
about Earth, if it’s here and I’m standing
on it now as it spins under the sun
and goes around it at the same time and
no wonder we create death, we get too
dizzy, ha ha, that’s what I told my Sun
-day School teacher and she started to cry
and then said Dear, you should be a preacher
when you grow up but I told her No ma’am,
no thank you, no god’s tough enough for this
and handed her Father’s handkerchief but
not his cufflinks, she didn’t need them and
though they shine like gold it’s just reflection.

About the author

Gale Acuff

Gale Acuff is a poet and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in Arab American University, Palestine. His poems have appeared in Ascent, Arkansas Review, Carolina Quarterly, Ohio Journal, New Texas, Midwest Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Literature & the Arts, Poet Lore, Able Muse, Tokyo Review, Muse India, Bombay Review, Westerly, and many other magazines. Gale has taught tertiary English courses in the US, China, and Palestine. He is the author of three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

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