The Writing Disorder


New Poetry


by Gale Acuff

I don't know what I'll do if Miss Hooker
dies but die, too, and hope that I see her
in Heaven, if I rate. I know she will,
she's my Sunday School teacher and I love
her so much that sometimes I want to throw
up, she's so beautiful, red hair and green
eyes and that mole on her nose, and freckles,
maybe a million, more than there are stars
in the night sky, and at regular school
they tell me that they shine in the daytime, too,
it's just that the sun's so bright it drowns them
out, at least I think it's like drowning. But
Miss Hooker's like the sun because she out
—glows everything, it's a wonder I can
see to see her. Some nights I dream I'm her
moon and when I come up and she goes down
and we're in the sky together it's like
we're in the same bed and rolling around
and all the stars I mentioned before, they're

our children—that's what going to sleep does
when you're grownups and sharing the same bed.
I'm just ten years old and she's 25
but Miss Hooker's the only gal for me
and I have faith God will answer my prayer,
make her younger and me older until
we meet halfway, say like the evening sun
or a lunar eclipse, or that day in
June when light and dark are exactly
the same length. Miss Hooker was absent from
Sunday School today. She has a cold,
our substitute said, but she'll be back next
Sunday. I can hardly wait but I must
—that's halfway, too. I'll bet she misses me.


In Sunday School class this morning I fell
asleep and learned that you can dream a lot
in a short time—in fact, in just a few
seconds. I was Moses parting the Red
Sea, watching my folk hurry through even
as Pharoah and his chariots and men
were bearing down on us. I cried to God
O Lord, Thou sure art cutting this one close,
but with the sound of the waters moving
and the people shouting and horses and wheels
coming ever closer, I'm not certain
if He heard me. I brought up the rear and
we barely made it across the Sea
before it splashed itself back together.
I thought, That's not God, it's gravity, and
the back of my robe got a good soaking
so maybe God read my mind and that was
His way of chastizing me, not that I
didn't deserve it. I did. I'd doubted
before, especially when I went up
the mountain to talk to Him, not that I
knew that I was going to talk to Him
or, I should say, that I was supposed
to listen while He did all the talking,
or most of it. But I had questions—I
wanted to know His name and He told me
I AM THAT I AM, not much of a name
but I didn't say so and didn't think
it at the time (He would've read my mind
and might've become even angrier,
if it was anger and not just sternness).
But anyway there was that Golden Calf
that my people were making when I went
up to fetch the Ten Commandments, not that
I knew that that was what I was climbing
for. And when I returned it was Hell to
pay. And the next thing I know Miss Hooker's

standing over me with her arms crossed
over her bosoms and her glasses on
the tip of her nose and her lazy eye
now focusing with the good one on me
and her lips drawn tight, connecting her cheeks
like the shaft that holds dumbbells together.
Whew. She asked, Did you have a nice nap,
Gale? But it wasn't really a question.
It's so nice of you to join us again.
Sarcasm is what that is. I may be
just 10 but I'm not exactly stupid,
not exactly. I'm sorry ma'am, I said
while my classmates snickered—but if it means
anything, I was dreaming about God.
Moses in particular. Oh I see,
Miss Hooker said. But she really didn't.
Then she turned around, went back to her chair,
and plopped down. , Well, it's almost time to go,
children, she said—let's bow our heads and close
our eyes while Gale leads us in the Lord's Prayer.
So she bowed her head and closed her eyes and
so did I and, about halfway through, make
that about 33%, that part
about temptation, I opened one eye
and peeked and everybody had their
eyes closed and heads bowed and only I could
see and suddenly I felt like God, all that

power because everybody's weaker
and I created everything there is.
Heck, maybe I did and just don't recall.
Or maybe I recall and just deny,
like Peter did Jesus but look at him
now—he guards the Pearly Gates. Have mercy.


After Sunday School I walk outside our class
and shade my eyes, and even squint, the sun
too bright or our room too dark, or some of
both. Now I walk home, about a half-mile,
watch our house expanding in the distance
so that it no longer looks like a stone
marker or a molar slightly decayed
but a real place to live. And from my room

in the attic I can see the church while
I stand before the window and dress, first
my best trousers, then my socks and shoes, then
my shirt, and clip-on bow tie always last.
And when the weather's not too warm, my coat.
I look good enough to get married now,
or even buried. That was this morning,
though—now it's nearly lunchtime. I'm hungry,
my stomach's growling but my soul's purring,
if that's my soul. I'm certainly full of

God, and my teacher's beauty, Miss Hooker's
her name and she'd make a good wife for me
even though she's old, 25 to my
10, but I don't mind if God doesn't and
if He approves then maybe He'll make us
a miracle, make me older faster
and Miss Hooker's time stand still. He did it
with the sun, I know, and who's that woman
who had a baby when she was too old?
I'm home now, and it's time to cross the street,

so I look both ways so I can do it
without having to run and scuff my shoes
on the blacktop, Thom McCanns they are, worn
for God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost
and Miss Hooker and Mother, who sleeps late
and never sees me dressed up like this 'til
I get home from Sunday School. She's frying
bacon now, I can smell it from the road.
When I walk through the kitchen door
she turns and says, My, you look so handsome,

better go change, lunch is almost ready.
Yes ma'am, I say. I go upstairs and take
everything off except my underwear
and stand in front of the full-length mirror
and I'm a baby again, just bigger
and older. I put on my jeans and tee
and come back to the kitchen and take my
place. Father's there with the Sunday paper
beside his plate. Say Grace, boy, he commands.
I bow my head and close my eyes and there

Miss Hooker is, naked on my bed. All
I can manage is a tongue-tied Amen.
Sorry, I mumble—let me try again.
Instead I fall out of my chair and when
I wake I'm lying on the couch, Father
at my feet and Mother standing over
me. How do you feel, boy, asks Father. Yes,
says Mother—how do you feel? Born again,
I say, which is all I have wit for. They
laugh, but not too much. I'm hungry, I say.
That's good, Father says. That means you're alive.

Gale Acuff has had her poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Worcester Review, Verse Wisconsin, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Poem, Amarillo Bay, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. She 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). She’s also taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

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