Miss Hooker caught me blowing bubblegum
in Sunday School class this morning and made
me spit it out into the trashcan while
my classmates giggled and I got angry
because it was my breakfast—I'm nervous
before church and can't eat my cornflakes
and drink my Tang like I always do
because I'll see her again, Miss Hooker,
who should marry me when I'm old enough,
10 now but 16 when I'm all grown up
or near enough. I'll be real good to her
and do anything she tells me to and
if that's not love I'm not sure what is,
but then I'm still a kid and she's what's called
mature, 25 I'd guess, and sometimes
love makes me forget that she'll grow older
for every second I do so that
when I'm 16 she'll be over 30
and always have those fifteen years on me,
but what that teaches me is that love's not
all the love that it could be--I'm not sure
why or whose fault that is. Miss Hooker says
that God is love but if God's perfect and
He's also love then why isn't love, too?
Perfect, I mean. She says that the world is


fallen and I think Adam and Eve are
to blame for that but sometimes I think it's
Satan but, even so, don't say that God
didn't warn them, Adam and Eve that is,
so I don't really know who's to blame—if
there wasn't such a thing as bubblegum
I wouldn't have sinned like I did today
and put Miss Hooker out and she's the one
I want so I didn't help my cause much
and if there's a rule about gum in class
nobody told me about it, though at
regular school getting caught with it means
trouble so I guess that Sunday School's like
that because they're related, like cousins
maybe, and when I go to a friend's house
I have to behave myself after all,
as if my buddy's mother is mine, too.
Maybe I could blame Bazooka Joe for
my trouble this morning, he came between
the woman I love and me, but I don't
even know where he lives or even if
he's real, or behind him and his comics,
they are funny, there's some man in a suit
and tie like the men who sit behind our
preacher and say Amen and sometimes close
their eyes like their minds are looking at God,
their hearts maybe, or maybe they're napping.
I don't really understand religion


but sometimes I can see God up there in
Heaven, sitting on His throne and Jesus
there beside Him, I think on the right side,
and maybe the Holy Ghost on His left
and angels all around, dancing maybe
and playing harps or just zooming around,
so I wonder if He ever gets bored
and turns to Jesus and says Got any
gum, or maybe the Holy Ghost but I
don't think He's got a mouth. Then I sit down
but soon stand up again because she called
on me, Miss Hooker did, to end the class
by leading us all in the Lord's Prayer
so I bowed my head and shut my eyes and
commenced and damned if the words didn't taste
like bubblegum all over again and
I take that as a sign, a sign of what
I'm not too sure but I'll bet when I'm old
I'll have a word for it, maybe more. So
when I said Amen and opened my eyes
Miss Hooker was smiling and that must mean
that she forgives me, like a lover's spat
was what we had so there's still hope for us,
especially when my voice changes and
I have to shave and use deodorant
and if she's still single I'll call her up
and ask her out and if she says Well, Gale,
I'm flattered but I'm much too old for you
I'll tell her Let's talk about it over
dinner tonight, what do you say, Sugar,
and if she hangs up on me I'll call her back
and start all over and come at her right
but if she says I didn't know you cared
maybe I'll say Oh, yes you did, and hang
up on her and we'll see how she likes those
apples and if she calls me I'll let
the phone ring several times, then
answer it and ask Will you marry me
and if she says yes then I'm in-like-Flynn
and if she says no she's just testing me
but if she doesn't say anything that's
even better than yes. That's plain righteous.

Gale Acuff has had poetry 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.