I go outside to play with my dog

this morning but I can't find him until

I spot him in the middle of the road,

right on the yellow center line, where cars

just miss him as they zoom opposite ways.

He's dead. I'm stone for a few seconds. I

don't know what to do but I know the truth

about life now--oh, I know that things die

but now I'm seeing death with my own eyes.

I wonder if it hurts even after


it ends. I walk down to the road and look

both ways before I cross to the center

and dare to touch my first dead animal.

Death's not only killed him, it's broken him.

I pick him up but his throat and nose 

stick. I lift harder and peel him free and

leave a little bit of him where he lay.

I get out of there fast before death kills

me, too--before my time, I like to think.

I carry Caesar up into the yard

and behind the house and onto the trail

that splits the garden and ends in the woods.

There's already a hole started where I

thought I'd dig to the center of the earth

when I was little. I'm 10 now. The dirt

I shoveled out is grown over with weeds

and grass but I can shovel it back in

on Caesar. It belongs to this hole, too.


So do I, I think, when I've buried him.

I never did make it to the center

and Caesar has a better chance, if dogs

rise from the dead, as they say people do,

or maybe that's just their spirits. I know

that if I were a dog and dead and set

into the ground like this, and I feared God,

if dogs fear God (Caesar was smart enough

to), I'd get my courage up and explore


and who knows what kinds of bones I'd find there

or interesting smells or passageways

into gopher holes or other burrows.

Or if I miss all that fun and just wake

up dead-but-alive in god-Heaven, I'd

put in a good word for my master, still


alive down there, of course, and working hard

in school and doing his chores and saving

at least some of his allowance each week

and going to church regularly, or

more or less, and never forgetting to

feed the dog. I'd have a new body, too,

and no fleas or ticks and I'd never lick

myself down there, and I'd live forever.


And one day my master will join me and

I'll do the trick that I could never learn

no matter how patient he was with me.

And I'll do it for Jesus, Who will laugh

and clap His hands, just like a little boy.








The first time I encounter the word fuck

and wonder is in the boys' bathroom in

the basement hall that separates grades

one and two. It's on the wall of the first stall.

FUCK, it brags, and I pay attention as

I drain my lizard. Wonder what it means,

I whisper, so no one can hear me but

me and the word itself. What it is is

our secret. I'll never tell, at least not

until I'm walking home this afternoon,

Bill Nutt, my neighbor, by my side, my best

friend but I really don't have any

that are human. I love my dog, my cat,

my fish, and my hamster. And birds outside

my window, but they're not really pals--they're

too free for that and if I should approach

them they'd only fly away. I don't blame them.

Church has a name for it--original

sin: something I did but wasn't around

to do, long, long ago, has cost me heaps

in love and understanding--and in life,

too. I'm the reason that I have to die

one day--any day, any hour. Minute.

Second. Right now. Or right now. Adam

and Eve fixed me good, got themselves booted out

of Eden and since they're everybody's

first parents and did the first really great

wrong, I have to pay as if I did it.

I don't question God--it's His job to know

what's what in life but He's a puzzlement

just the same. Oh, of course there's Jesus, His

Son, died long ago for my sins . . . . I wasn't even born

then. Man, I think I'm in trouble now

--for peeking through my sister's keyhole and

forgetting to do my English homework

and swiping a a dime from the collection plate

last Sunday and stealing a candy bar

at the 7/11 down the street

and calling Bill Nutt a son of a bitch,

whatever that is, and teasing the cat

and spitting on the sidewalk and laughing

when the fat girl who sits across from me

pooted when the bell rang for recess and

Teacher kept me indoors. Lord, I have sinned

--I know I shouldn't but it's not my fault,

it's Adam's. Or, it is my fault but it's

not fair because I didn't do it first,

it's part of my her-i-tage, a real bad

part, like slavery and gassing Jews and

foreign kids who don't have enough to eat

and I'm just a kid without much power.

But if I believe in Jesus He will

save me. I'll still lead a sinful life but

somewhat less than it might have been and when

I croak I'll go to live in Heaven, or

not right off the bat--I'll have to wait there

in my grave until I get the call-up.

Or maybe I do get to go right then

--I forget. I'll ask Bill, even though he

goes to a different church and even though

that might mean he'll go to Hell or I will

or we both will or neither of us will.

In the meantime, it can't hurt to ask him

what FUCK means. Wouldn't it be funny if

he says, Where did you get to know that word,

and I say, It was on the bathroom stall

and he says, Oh, yeah--I wrote it there, and

I ask, Well, what does it mean, and he says

Friendly Unicorns Can Kiss? I'd be darned.








She's just put her baby down for a nap

and returned to the spot on the couch where

I take the child's place, put my head on her

lap and look up, pleased that I cannot see

her face for the overhang of her chest.

So I reach up with my right hand because

my left arm's wedged against her midriff and

unbutton the final button on her

blouse and pull each side of her blouse apart

as if I'm opening kitchen curtains

in the morning, and I begin to knead

each nipple, already hard like cigaret

filters, and watch my fingers stroke and bring

out the light blue veins of her mammaries.

I shift my weight nearer to her knees so

I can see her face: eyes are shut and lips

slightly parted in pleasurable pout.

Now my left arm's free so I pull it back

and raise myself with it and suck her

nipples and she whispers, Umm hmm, Baby,


too loudly, and he cries. Then we cease and

wait to hear his silence, which, when it comes,

is loud enough for us to continue.

Why don't you get back on the bed, I say,

and she does, and I'm face-down in her and

before long my chin is wet. I mount her

and it doesn't take long until I collapse

with my face to her cleavage and her hands

running fingernails-first through my hair.  I


want to be free, she says. Who doesn't, I say.


Gale Acuff


Bio:  Mr. Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent,  Ohio Journal,  Descant, Poem,  Adirondack Review,  Coe Review,  Worcester Review ,  Maryland Poetry Review,  Arkansas Review,  Florida Review,  South Carolina Review,  Carolina Quarterly,  South Dakota 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.