A poem by Gale Acuff

At church they say that when I die I’ll go
to Heaven—and they should know, I guess. I
have to be good, though, and when I sin, I
have to pray to be forgiven. And I
can’t sin on purpose and get off the hook
although I’m not sure why—something about
being a hypocrite. After Sunday


School I walk back home and take off my clip
-on bow tie and put it in my pocket
and pull my shirttail out and blow bubble
gum and step into the woods to pee. I
come out again and can make out our house
at the top of the hill. I can’t live there
forever. I’ll have to graduate from
high school and maybe go to college and
graduate from it, too—hope it’s not hard
—and find a job and get married and have
children and then retire and be old
and play with my grandchildren and then die.
That’s when I’ll meet God—or meet Him again,
if I knew Him before I was born. I
don’t remember now but maybe I will
when I see Him. Or maybe I’ll just hang


until the Judgment Day, which means
lying and shriveling up and rotting
in my pine box in the ground until all’s
up. And then I’ll see Him. I’ll be a soul
by then, however—invisible, but
God will know it’s me. Without eyes I’ll see
Him as clearly as day. Into the Lake
of Everlasting Fire, he roars. Sure thing,
I say, but I was really hoping for
better. Suddenly I’m neck-deep in flames
—maybe they will purify my spirit.
And if it’s Eternity then there’s no
time to worry about. A soul can burn
—I know that now. Brother, do I ever.

Gale Acuff is an assistant professor at the Arab American University in Palestine. He has taught English in the Palestinian West Bank, the U.S., and China. His poetry has been published in Ascent, the Ohio JournalDescant, Poem, the Adirondack Review, the Coe Review, the Worcester Review, the Maryland Poetry Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse Press, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse Press, 2008).


A poem by Jim Zola

The only school in town is Catholic,
all girls, taught by nuns with long curved
fingernails and too much mascara.
Sister Brittani is rumored to sport
a tattooed stigmata and a cursive J
on her inner thigh. The boys in town
prop glassbrick walls and swap fish tales.
Barely puffed cigarette butts pile high
like monuments. Every other downtown
shop is for beauty. Grown men
are pool cleaners or muscled executives
in buttonless shirts. They grunt greetings,
scoop dirty water, shuffle papers, wait
for the women who are nurses,
secretaries and maids all laced
in innocence. They hide their sags
and sores until retirement. Then they move
to Jerkwater, where the big summer
event is a softball tournament
against the circus folks from Gibsonton.
Last year the half-girl pitched a perfect game.