Poetry

Living in Sin by Gale Acuff

One day I’ll see Miss Hooker in Heaven
when I’m dead. She’s my Sunday School teacher
and says that all men must die, women too,
and that they’ll never know exactly when
and that if they knew when then they’d be afraid
and couldn’t live out living lives they have.
She’ll go to Heaven, and I’ll go to Hell
unless I stop sinning, she says, and when
I do, sin I mean, I need forgiveness
from God and then I have to try not to
sin again or I lose His forgiveness
and I lose enough these days as it is,

at checkers and baseball and regular
school, where I failed the second grade but then
I wasn’t really trying and we learned
to write and count in first grade anyway
so why push it? I see Miss Hooker just
once a week, Sunday mornings I mean, and
then only for an hour or so unless
I stay after to walk her to her car
but some of the other kids do, too, so
I can’t have her all to myself and love

is what that is which I’ve got for her and
it’s the marrying kind but I’m too young
and she’s too old, 10 and 25, so
this looks like a job for Jesus and I
pray every night that if He won’t let
us wake up the same age the next morning
then He’ll keep her Miss Hooker until I’m
old enough to court her, 15 maybe
to her 30. And I won’t even care
that she’ll die long before I do because
it’s not how long something lasts but how deep

it goes before it’s gone. I wonder how
I know that–maybe it’s the Holy Ghost
and I’ll remember to tell Miss Hooker
that when I’m ready to propose, even
before I do and she should turn me down,
it really ought to clutch her and if she
cries then I’ll know it’s romantic and that’s
a damn good sign. And then she’ll die, not right
then but a few years later, so I’ll kill

some time, maybe fifteen years, until I
die, too, and wake up to see her leaning
over me in Heaven and she’ll help me
to my feet, if I have them up yonder
and the rest of my body, too, unless
I’m all-soul but come to think of it she
says we get new bodies up there but then
she also says that folks aren’t married there
so I’m not sure of my facts so maybe
if you’re married and you die then you get
an automatic divorce, which is why

I don’t ever want to die at all and
not have Miss Hooker as my lawfully
wedded wife. Maybe we can work something
out. Maybe up in Heaven we can run
away and take our vows again and God
will hunt us down and ex-com-mu-ni-cate
us. That means He’ll throw us out like He did
Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden

but at least they were together. Maybe
we’ll just be satisfied up in Heaven
not being married, just living in sin
if that’s what it will be. I wonder if
God’s figured that out, too. First chance I get
I’ll tell Him. Maybe she’ll say, My hero
–I think she’ll mean me. She damn well better.

©2012 This work is the property of the author.

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