Pink Gums

By Gale Acuff

God loves me, Miss Hooker says, and that’s why

He wants me to die one day. He’ll take me

away when He pleases by sending His

angel of death when my time’s up. She’s my

Sunday School teacher so I take her word

most of the time since it’s really not her

word but the word of God, she’s just swiping

from the Bible and when you swipe something

from the Bible how can it be a sin?

I should ask her. So I have to die


is the heart of it all but she says that

if I stop my sinning, not that I can

but have to show I’m trying, then I’ll go

to Heaven when I die, where there’s nothing

to be afraid of. But I like to be

scared, like at Halloween. But if I sin

enough to bring on Hell that’s where I’ll go

to be tortured for all eternity,

not just some eternity but it all

though even some sounds too damn long to me.

After Sunday School this morning I told


Miss Hooker I don’t want to die at all

and she got a little sore at that, took

off her glasses and showed her naked eyes,

kind of like a ‘possum’s in a flashlight

by night but otherwise she’s beautiful,

red hair and green eyes and painted toenails.

She put them on again and said, Living

forever is not an option, Gale. What’s

option? I didn’t ask her but I’ll look

it up in Webster. Maybe not, I said,

but could be God kind of overlooked it

—someone ought to tip Him off about it.

She took off her glasses again. ‘Possums

have sharp teeth and I turned away

before I saw Miss Hooker’s but I know

they’re clean and white and her gums are pink so


those are good signs, good for her anyway.

At the door I turned around and said goodbye

but she was staring at me like they will,

‘possums I mean, trying to see something

in all that light.


Gale Acuff has had poems published in many journals and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine, and currently teaches at Sichuan University for Nationalities, Sichuan province, China.

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