In the ’80s you could fly Piedmont into Worcester, Mass. Weary Friday-night salesmen joked, Helped the attendant pronounce the name. This was my parents’ penultimate Summer in New Hampshire, My father agitated, Convinced they had left Without packing, and hoping He could get a shave At the barbershop in the lobby Of a Days Inn motel, My mother, exhausted, Glad someone else would drive The rest of the way. The other day I bought a postcard On eBay, outbidding someone Who must have wondered Why anyone else Would want a souvenir Of the Worcester Airport.
1. On television every day Several people tell us That the images we are about to see Are disturbing. Shocking. Dispiriting, Though that is my word, Not theirs.
2. On our street at Golden Pines, Red lights flashing more often now: We’ve been here 15 years.
Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.
You can find more of Robert’s work here on Ink Pantry.
You speak of a coast that’s so pristine, where the sand is decked with shells and pearls, where the fish that venture into the air are safe from spears and goring hooks.
There the trees that hum to the eager wind have never been bled, or to fires fed and nestlings whose parents fly all day long are safe from fangs that crave for blood.
The ripples that lap its ancient rocks know not the taste of flotsam or waste, have never been whisked by engines whose grunts can agitate the souls of the deep.
There I would romp with my shepherd dog and walk barefooted along the bay, and feed the dolphins as I do the swans every urban but blessed weekend.
You woo me with a notion, I scrutinize my map, but startled wake up to the alarm clock: my dog has been departed for over twelve months, and your headstone is covered with ivy and moss.
Castle Street, the shop where I used to purchase my pint of milk, the telephone booth that conjured up my next of kin, the oldest house in Glasgow that nourished my medieval bent.
On Cathedral Street, our window commanded an imposing view of the historic cemetery where the gentry repose, shielded by monuments of stone, which are now a metaphor for tranquility and hope, my shelter from a never-ending war; the inn where I consumed my very first scone with a Scot who wore no kilt but was Celtic to the bone, my very first friend in Glasgow.
Sauchiehall Street, the window-shopping of gorgeous stores the Glasgow Film Theatre whose exotic films enthralled aided by John Doyle’s jellies and popcorn.
She sat in a cage matted with wood shavings opposite a cat who pranced with fright, I wondered why he had placed them thus.
I was walking to escape our dose of darkness, a three-hundred-minute power-cut, periodically robbing evenings of work and fun.
A whimper then a scream of remonstrance made me retreat to the very same spot I always avoided with utter disgust.
With a stick, he was terrorizing his products: rabbits, chickens, and all sorts of birds to be docile and curb their wants.
I shun all dealings with whoever trades with lives, but gazing into her eyes, I was utterly mesmerized, a seven-month Loulou Spitz, mere merchandise.
He made me pay double the price she brought for alarm was resonant in my voice that had a pitch in the presence of abuse.
I called her Lucia, she brought me light. Her name’s pronounced with the Italian tʃ sound as in charming and cheering, the traits of my new friend.
The lamp that illuminated your pensive face, kindling freckles that dot unadulterated benignity, gilding the auburn that crowns your head, rippling above a well-nurtured suavity, cascading over your variegated lips, suffusing wan cheeks with cordiality, imbuing each iris with fiery rays, redeeming each dilation from obscurity, has been auctioned for sale.
Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, A New Ulster, Crossways, The Curlew, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.
You can find more of Susie’s work here on Ink Pantry.
The way my mother’s countenance glitters When from a land far-off I return home
from ‘Mother’ by Chandra Gurung
Chandra Gurung is a poet from the remote village of Gorkha in Nepal who grew up in India, where his father was stationed in the Indian army.
His childhood was happy, yet he states, ‘the bad things were the geographical distances between my family members, especially with my mother. That made me experience solitude and loneliness as a child, and I was often deprived of many social connections.’
As a sensitive and shy boy, he preferred to remain alone; turning to his pen, words and books for comfort. He says, ‘to this day, these early emotions are still some of the strongest urges in my writing.’
With such a background, Chandra writes mainly when he is travelling and alone. He writes, ‘It is not that I write poems about just anything that comes to my mind, but I write only on those topics and themes that are of most interest to me, such as social and political issues and the predicament of human life. These are the subjects of many of my poems, as are the present deficiencies of humanity.’
Many of these subjects are contained within a 2020 publication of 47 of Chandra’s poems entitled ‘My Father’s Face’; written in Nepalese and translated into English by Mahesh Paudyal.
From his poignant words, it’s clear that Chandra’s love of his native Nepal and the people he has met within his life are of paramount importance to the poet.
Some, such as ‘Lovely Moon’ can be imagined as written by the poet simply seated and observing the world revolving around him.
The Moon, Appears atop a hill And stealthily descends Slips into the well Lands on a riverbank Perhaps, it is looking for its love Inside the night’s bosom
At other times, Chandra focuses upon his deeper social and political thoughts, as eloquently expressed in the poem, ‘Patriotism’.
He picked The Sun and the Moon from my sky And wrapped them in a piece of cloth Dyed it in my blood Washed it in my sweat And said: This is your national flag
He packed my faith And my trust into a bundle And placing the same in front of a statue Said: This is your national deity This is your national religion
Reading through the collection of poetry, the main aspect that leaps out towards the reader is the beautiful simplicity and directness of the words that Chandra employs on every line.
Here is a man of simple truths and thoughts.
Here writes a poet who observes this material world and seeks enlightenment from everything he senses.
Chandra writes about the world as if he is portraying it through the lens of a camera. Nothing within the book is overly complex, nor does it need to be. Multiple adjectives are not required in order to express the notion of a tree, a landscape or a person.
This is perfectly expressed within the poem, ‘An Old Lamp Post’.
Beginning simply, we are the observers of a typical street scene, as witnessed through the ‘eyes’ of the lamp post.
An old lamp post Stands quietly in the corner And witnesses – The kids playing on the road The fatigued porters conversing at the square The chitchat of the housewives on the adjoining veranda And the friends meeting at the tea stall’
A scene adeptly expressed, as if we were right there in the street – maybe leaning on the lamp post and simply observing.
However as the poem nears its end, the energy of Chandra’s words have altered to a more sinister and darker level, following the introduction of some rioters who have pelted the old lamp post with rocks, which now stands alone.
It is unattended like a home abandoned in famine Like a village devastated by an earthquake No new bulb has been hung No new paint has been applied And my nation stands in the darkness of time As does this old lamp post
Chandra has the simplistic talent of expressing his soul via language open and available to all; regardless of where they exist within this world. His words are like paint upon an enlightening easel, such as this poem called ‘Land of the Old Boatman’, beginning with a wonderful, descriptive tone and ending with an onomatopoeic flourish.
Dil Bahadur Majhi, an old boatman Rows his days on the surface of the Narayani Enjoys in the village of its water Roves along its aquatic streets Devoid of colour Devoid of taste Devoid of form Lives a life like that of water
Like in the chest of the old boatman This country aches in hearts Countless in number Plop…plop Fizz…fizz Plop…plop Fizz…fizz
You may wish to get your own copy of Chandra’s book here.
She’s stubbed out her last cigarette, we marvel that she managed it; a sixty-a-day inveterate, a Marlboro-mad smoking stick who craved not only nicotine and the repertoire of motions, from hand to mouth and back again essential to devotions, but had augmented the habit to flatten flames that burnt within, by applying lighted nub-ends to the stubbornness of skin; to steady flight and cushion fall and obviate oblivion; to moderate the mercury indifferent to Lithium.
She caught us glancing at her arms for pale uneven patches, rolled her sleeves and turned the palms, her burns exchanged for slashes; the scars of broken beer glasses, scores of jewelled and jagged edges, brooches, blades and coloured plastics, crampons spiking every crevice.
At the weekly self-harm classes we will sterilise her weapons with a sigh at further damage and an eye upon infections. She plays the part of maverick and scoffs at antisepsis, seeks the tear of fraying fabric and heightening of senses. She’s courting her intrusive thoughts when she doesn’t take the tablets, like the thrill of sexual intercourse without the prophylactics.
Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.
I have a simple life A simple wife A simple kid Some simple strife
I like a simple meal A simple book A simple look into the workings of the USA
I have a simple outlook A simple philosophy And, simple friendships
Simple man, not simpleton Simple mystery of life: Be kind to all, and to all a good life
Answer to Simple by Vera Wang
The simple man has simple demands, Get me a simple beer, and Get me a simple bag of chips, Get me some simple crackers, and Some simple cheese! Ah, a few more to add on, How about some simple chocolate and simple ice cream? “What, you are not?” “All I ask is every Friday some G. D. simple treats!!” Why? “Because I’m simply a simple man with these simple demands, and If my simplest list is not fulfilled I will simply yell and scream, Amen!
I offered congratulations from this morning to tomorrow even though I was corrected regarding the date of birth. How do I explain that a person has no idea when he will end his life this time around?
I write to my mother, my love for her in the most unexpected moments of tribute
how will I explain that perhaps it is the penultimate greeting of a daughter to her mother before the present cuts the latter and not the resurrected midwife from the year ’80 the umbilical cord between me and her placenta and not to give birth to me again? But to kill.
I look at my father and cry for another twenty years or so that he will not be here I was ahead of the artist to “grow and sanctify her great name” in the Kaddish prayer in the twilight hour in Sacker Park. I shed a tear.
If you live in consciousness as I wrote “God does not pass over life from man, as he does not pass over death.”
You are the most miserable person there is, with such insight you do not enjoy a single piece of bread and no drink. You are dead.
A Letter to Tali
There’s a whole world waiting for you around the darker corner of life
in which you are adept enough to sort clothes of the same ethnic group of the black cloth of your life.
If you hadn’t been a little better than the decorations that would add figurativeness
so as to decorate the rhetoric of the black cloth of your life
I promise you that you would get to see a star fall in the dark!
I planted you, my love, I planted you And how come what flowered was not what was planted/and the bearing did not yet give birth What was born
How come what did not wane could be weakened And on the other hand, the trouble is.
And only into my life they husked this mix Of how and why, the slips I saved From your eyes.
You are willing to come To Jerusalem Where I kill myself Every single day –
You can’t live in a place Where the Transfer is Conceptually different For you –
As much as you warned me About America
Where people don’t realize The difference between Poetry And Song,
I want to go back to Europe – where people live By caricatures
You say you like Jews
You thought I came from Those countries – where it is forbidden To uproot My Ghetto
So I am going to the hospital What the hospital asks Is one less lady Who smiles.
It’s Almost a Decade Since
She saw you in the Irish pub that night With your Japanese wife
Wearing westerly clothing You held her Kimono The one she hid
While she imposed the “Misogo” Instead of the Mikve.
Her name the same as the Filipino Domestic of my dead Gramma
You know, many Jews died since You left, more than Gentiles, But you, You are my best lesson It is not forbidden to walk with an Ilk of “Geishas”-
It was your best deal To leave me alone, when I First died in my Twenties.
To My Father’s Surgeon
I’ve realized how it works: It is announced that … and it’s known all of a sudden! *
You know that suddenness has an action plan that is comprehensive and detailed – it’s a strategy within itself.
When it (the suddenness) receives existence in a person’s ears it is experienced as a malicious trick indeed it has no advance warning or alert before taking action. Did you know that I had to dismantle this trick of suddenness
On the 27th day of January, 2015 on the 10th floor of hearts in question marks under full anesthesia and full monitoring in waiting very exact for waiting for the cardiology ward.
After all, the obvious suddenness is no longer understood and has many consequences, it is the realization that we are winning something that we would not necessarily be entitled to when my father is on the operating table at a supervised temperature at which you bypassed the blockage with an additional route in his heart
and I could not offer you assurances at this time my father!
And I was to the Traveller’s Prayer and the chorus in the Book of Psalms, from “Blessed is the Man” and to the verse “And all that he does will succeed.”
Did you know that I have connected to every special quality for any trouble that may come obsessively?
And I was for every letter of the letters of your name in Psalms
and I searched for any mention in those hours of heredity
Did you know that my father has three daughters of wonderful Semitic beauty will you recognize my father in them? When you operated with this suddenness on father.
And is charity not just a theological term for gratitude to be considered – please accept this (from me), surgeon!
*Heart bypass surgery, decided on within three days of detection!
When I don’t have cigarettes, it determines my Sabbath fate.
Nevertheless, it all begins with a cigarette on Sabbath with an exhale just before sunset until the inhalation the next day when the stars emerge with the blessing “That distinguishes between sacred and profane”
This is the most important day to consume cigarettes, because the day when God rested from all his work is not an idea.
That every business is closed in Jerusalem, even if they made enough from tobacco consumption during the week.
Really, there’s a woman for whom the cigarette is her language and the way she counts in cigarette butts corrects her phobia with numbers.
I need a cigarette that does not exceed 10 centimeters and is no more than 7 millimeters in diameter The effect of the nicotine substance found in tobacco on the human brain inspires in me at the same time the quality of writing on the Sabbath.
It should be seriously considered
that there are withdrawal symptoms arising from a lack of nicotine in the brain that is prevented from me to contain them when a person does not consume cigarettes on the Holy Sabbath.
Accordingly, the biblical saying will come here that “the Sabbath may be broken when life is at stake”
Should I silence any thirst and adhere with the Creator blessed without any adherence to an object for an entire day?
Generally the week enters on the Sabbath. For me? On Sunday.
Tali Cohen Shabtai is a poet born in Jerusalem, Israel. She began writing poetry at the age of six, an excellent student of literature. She began her writings by publishing her impressions in the school’s newspaper. Her poetry was published in a prestigious literary magazine of Israel ‘Moznayim’ when she was fifteen years old.
Tali has written three poetry books: Purple Diluted in a Black’s Thick, (bilingual 2007), Protest (bilingual 2012) and Nine Years From You (2018).
Tali’s poems express spiritual and physical exile. She is studying her exile and freedom paradox, her cosmopolitan vision is very obvious in her writings. She lived some years in Oslo, Norway and in the U.S.A. She is very prominent as a poet with a special lyric, “she doesn’t give herself easily, but subjects to her own rules”.
Tali studied at the David Yellin College of Education for a bachelor’s degree. She is a member of the Hebrew Writers’ Association and the Israeli Writers’ Association in the state of Israel.
In 2014, Tali participated in a Norwegian documentary about poets’ lives called “The Last Bohemian”- “Den Siste Bohemien”, which was screened in the cinema in Scandinavia.
By 2020, her fourth book of poetry will be published, including Norway. Her literary works have been translated into many languages.
Some are sent to watch us, and show us the path Others are destroyers who will bring a certain wrath Angels and demons, are said to be one and the same One brings protection, the other brings suffering and pain Anything is possible with a Guardian Angel by your side But a demon will lead you to destruction through pride We all need some extra help from the trouble life brings From pauper, solider, nurse or drunken kings An Angel will carry you when things are hard to bear Alleviate any doubt, suspicion or fear Climb the tallest mountain, survive the biggest fall Angels help you when your back is against the wall A Devil’s Angel on the other hand brings doubt in the ear Causing you to panic, and act out of despair Two sides of the coin, which one will you get Will it be a loyal companion or a vicious pet? Who knows how we are chosen, at random it seems Do they come to us through deeds or dreams? Majestic, beautiful Angels covered in loving grace The destroying Angels also come with a loving face Miracles and healing are an Angel’s gift With their positive aura they give us a lift But not all Angels fly and have wings Descending from Heaven, above the cherub sings There are earthly humans that have an Angelic nature They live amongst us, but are guided by the creator Willing to give their lives for the sake of others And are not ruled by greed, or unfaithful lovers An Angel in disguise that helps the poor and unwell While other living Angels try to send souls to Hell
No Place Like Home
They say an Englishman’s home is his castle From Liverpool, London, Manchester to Newcastle Go around this world like Phileas Fogg in eighty days Still you feel lost, like a wraith and stray There’s no better place than where we call home Mine is London, the home of the Millennium dome Living in a palace may prove you have money But I would rather be at home eating toast and honey The smell of the sheets, my own pictures on the wall Sit on the sofa, cook or shower, give a friend a call A place to rest and escape the buzz of the city I can stay in bed if I ever feel shitty Play some Jazz, soul, rock and blues Walk around naked if I drink too much booze
I’m not a rolling stone, don’t feel comfortable where my hat lays
And I get home sick after about ninety days Dorothy walked the yellow brick road to get away But there’s no place like home, she would say Home is where the heart is constantly beating Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, put on the heating Our own island to escape the madding crowd A place to feel happy and proud
Jesus, He’s my Lord and Saviour, which means that when I croak my body will, die that is, but my soul will go to Heaven to be judged and chances are I’ll get to stay there, in Heaven I mean, for forever, which means Eternity. At Sunday School I’m the first to come and the last to go, except for Miss Hooker herself, she’s our teacher, and usually I beat her
there in the morning, too, and wait for her Ford F-150 pickup, she’s driving it, of course, and it’s red with lots of chrome, real, not fake, kind of like Jesus Himself. I sit there on the two-by-four and ply -wood porch of our portable building, kill
time in the dark and by the time it’s time for Sunday School the sun’s up, like Jesus again, I guess, and when it’s time to go the sun’s hotter and moving up the sky, and when I wake from my afternoon nap at home it’s as hot as it can be, at least for summer. I know that God loves me because I love Miss Hooker, and I want
to marry her when I’m old enough, not 10 like I am now but 18 maybe to her then-33, that’s religion for you, don’t ask me why, wait until I start shaving and driving and my armpits smell like compost piles. Bad, but not wicked
After Sunday School today I proposed to Miss Hooker, my teacher, marriage was on my mind even though she’s 25 to my 10, it’s never too early to make a promise and keep it but of course she turned me down although she said she felt flattered but one day when I’m older, much older, I can come back and try again so I said, Yes ma’am, thank you, and I hope you’ll still be single then because I’d hate to bust things up between you and your man and she laughed and said, Yes, I’d hate for you to have to, and then I said goodbye but before I could turn and walk out of our portable building she bent over did Miss Hooker, in my direction I mean, her face I mean and kissed me on the cheek, the left one but I’m right-cheeked for chewing
most of the time anyway unless it’s gum and my jaw gets tired so I park my chew on the other side and I almost asked If I turn the other cheek would you kiss that one, too, which would’ve been biblical and would’ve worked in my favor as well so that Miss Hooker would remember that I’m the man for her but instead I wiped it off forgetting that might offend her which it must’ve because she asked, Are you wiping my kiss away, Gale? so I thought fast, it must’ve been inspiration, the divine kind, that’s the kind that comes from God, and answered, No ma’am, I’m rubbing it in, which saved me, so she kissed me again and I kissed back but even though I missed I came pretty damn close. That’ll teach her.
Miss Hooker is my Sunday School teacher and the prettiest woman in the world, even prettier than Mother–I hope it’s not a sin to say so–even though I haven’t seen every woman in the world. I just believe in God and if I believe that Jesus is His Son and died for my sins and everyone else’s, too, past, present, and future, then I’ll go to Heaven when I die. I don’t want to –die, I mean–but if I have to, and I have to, then Heaven is the place to be and not Hell, which is like being inside
a black car with black interior on the hottest day of summer, the windows rolled up and the car full of people and we smell bad and all the doors are locked from the outside and the windows are too thick to crack and we can’t get out and that’s Hell and it’s sure not for me. But if I sin that’s what Hell will be like, Miss Hooker says, not that she knows firsthand but that she knows her Bible and goes to junior college at night. And she has red hair and green eyes and about a zillion freckles and that’s just on the parts of her I can see so
who knows how many she’s got everywhere? God knows–I can’t know because that’s a sin. I wonder if Miss Hooker knows herself. Probably. Maybe when she’s got spare time she counts them and counts them again. I hope she doesn’t lose count and then starts over. Poor thing. I had a dream one night that she was sleeping and somehow I was in her
room and took a crayon and connected all those freckles like dots. I had to pull back her bedsheet to do it and almost woke her, it was pretty close, and then I had to wait until she turned over so I could finish the job and she looked just a mess when I was through but I guess I connected the dots the wrong way and made the wrong picture. But I could try again if she took a bath and washed ’em away
but that will be another dream and I can never seem to dream the dream I want, I only dream by accident, I guess. So I’d rather go to Heaven and I might die at any time so if I die in sin it’s Hell for sure, so the best way to protect myself is to marry her when I’m old enough. I’m only 10 now and she’s getting old, 25 I’d say, so when I’m all grown up, 16 maybe to her 31, then I’ll ask her out and to save time because she won’t have much
left I’ll ask for her hand when I take her home. I hope that I don’t dream tonight I walk her home and say, Miss Hooker, may I have your hand in marriage, Baby, and she uses one hand to pull the other off and hands it to me. So sometimes I do dream what I think about in daytime but hardly ever what I really want and I don’t want any nightmares because that’s Satan trying to fool with me but if
I lie in bed after I say the Lord’s Prayer and one for my dog and one for my folks and one for Miss Hooker–I save the best for last–and pretend I’m looking right at her up there on my ceiling then I’ll fall asleep with beauty on my mind and dream about that, her gigantic face looking down on me like I’m her baby and me reaching up and mouthing Mama. And if she bends to kiss me I’ll kiss first.
Fries with That
Grace Hooker is my Sunday School teacher. Mother says her skirt’s too short but Father disagrees. Oh no, he says–it’s just right. Mother frowns and frowns. He doesn’t look back. He keeps staring straight ahead. In the rear -view mirror I can see him trying not to smile. We’re on our way home from chowing
Sunday lunch at the Buffeteria. I saw Miss Hooker there with her boyfriend. Or maybe her brother. I’m not sure. I hope he’s her brother because I love her and want to marry her. Oh sure, she loves her brother, too, if that’s who he is, but that’s a different kind of love so I
still have a chance, a wee one, to woo her –she’s a lot older, at least 25 to my 10. So I’ve been praying like hell –like heck, I mean–every night that God will shave the difference off our ages down at least a bit so that when I’m old enough, say 16, to date her, she’ll be only 20 and then I’ll have a shot.
I’ll borrow Father’s car and pick her up –it’s Mother’s, too, but she doesn’t drive. And she won’t sit as far away from me as Mother sits from Father, no sir–she’ll sit plumb next to me. I’ll have my arm around her and her head will rest on my shoulder and I’ll steer with my left hand, which is free, and just two fingers, maybe, like Elvis does in his movies. I’ll sing like him, too. After supper we’ll go to the show, then
to the drug store for hot fudge sundaes, then to the back of the drug store to look at the comic books. Look–Wonder Woman, I’ll say. I didn’t know you had your own comic book. She’ll like that. She’ll laugh and blush. Look, she’ll say–Superman. Just like you. But I’m looking for Batman so I guess I’ll buy him and some chocolate-covered cherries for her, and then I’ll take her home
and we’ll sit on the porch with her brother until he starts yawning and goes inside. Then we’ll sit on the porch swing and we’ll look into each other’s eyes until we feel a kiss coming on and we’ll close them tight
to meet it. Smack. I guess I’d better go, I say. Oh no, she says–it’s early yet. I’m sorry, Darling, I say, but I’ve got school tomorrow. Oh, I forgot, she says. Gotcha, I say–tomorrow’s Saturday, and we laugh and laugh and I don’t get home until at least 9:30. Hello, son, my parents say. Did you have a good time? Yes, I say–I had the time of my life.
At the Buffeteria I have steak. It’s the best part of the cow. And french fries and apple pie. Mother and Father light their cigarettes and I wave the smoke away but I’m not too disgusted. Father asks What did you learn from Miss Hooker today? Sin’s bad, I say, and, Have a lot of faith. That’s good advice, Mother says. Yes, it is, says Father. Yep, I say. I can’t tell them
I love her because I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me–I can’t tell them what I pray for. That would be like betraying Miss Hooker but I’m not sure why. We’re just a secret that we don’t exactly share. Love’s like that.
I don’t know anyone who loves me like Miss Hooker, my Sunday School teacher, unless it’s God but somehow He doesn’t count, He’s way beyond me. Sure, He loves me but so do my parents but somehow they don’t rate much either, God bless ’em, they’re too busy with jobs and each other and they can’t give me what I want and neither can God–well, He can but He doesn’t care to, I guess. He never answers my prayers and I have better luck with Santa Claus though only once a year but that’s ten times the luck I have with God. Probably more. There’s my dog but he has the excuse that he isn’t even human and maybe God isn’t, either, but Miss Hooker says
that I was created in His image, and every other person, too, so maybe He’s confused with all the people He’s created, He can’t keep ’em straight so to be fair to everybody He won’t answer any prayers and if He did so for everybody He wouldn’t have much power anymore, we’d all be gods. That is, I guess He created me, I don’t know where else I could’ve come from, but I’m just 10 and have a right to be ignorant, forget I’m in the fourth grade and not exactly stupid, there’s just not much in my head now. All I have is heart. I think maybe I came from my parents but I’m not sure and when I ask them
they either smile or grimace. If I ask on Friday nights they look at each other and maybe Father will say, Well, well, well, wouldn’t you like to know, which means he won’t tell me. Then he winks at Mother and I look at her fast and she’s blushing, staring at her hot dog like she’s never seen meat before. And if I ask on Sunday through Thursday sometimes he answers the moon, or I dunno, or I wish to Hell I knew, or look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls, but we use Comptons and they don’t tell me, (continued / no stanza break) or under a rock in the River Nile but even I know that’s far, far away. I asked Miss Hooker once and she told me
to ask my folks and I said I did but they won’t tell me and I’m starting to think that they don’t know but are too embarrassed to confess it. She laughed. I’m not sure why. I prayed to God about it but struck out. I’d do better just to ask my dog and I’ll be he knows but he can’t speak people, only dog, which I don’t know. Cat neither but we don’t have one of those anyway. Miss Hooker’s an old lady, 25 I’d guess. When I grow up I’ll marry her no matter that she’ll be older, too. Ask me if I care. I don’t. When I’m her age
she’ll be 40, which is pushing death but we could have a few good years together and maybe even a few babies and if I don’t know the skinny by then she can fill me in and then maybe I’ll learn how I was put together, too. I have a clue or two: it helps to be married and sleep in the same bed in the dark and have the door shut, even locked, like my folks do, and I think they even put something over the keyhole so I can’t see in, which I don’t. No, that’s a sin and a lie
–I tried to but all I saw was darkness. And maybe you turn the radio on. And maybe you giggle and sigh and moan and then light cigarettes. I smell the smoke clear up to my attic bedroom. Then you whisper for a while and then you snore and your wife goes to the bathroom and when she comes back she wakes you up, or tries to. And as near as I can figure, that’s how I happened. I wish I could remember but I was awfully young then. Smarter, too.
Dr Gale Acuff taught English university courses in the US, China, and Palestine. He has been published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.
You can find more of Gale’s work here on Ink Pantry.