Gale Acuff

has had hundreds of poems published in literary magazines and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine, where he teaches at Arab American University.


Buddy Holly

             Marietta Georgia, 1966

When Jesus died the Bible says the sky
went dark or groaned or one of those or both—
I disremember rightly what it says
but it says something of sig-nif-i-cance,
ask Miss Hooker, my Sunday School teacher,
she knows it all as if she was there in
person in the flesh on the spot just when
it went down though of course she wasn’t, she’s
only 25, old to my 10 but
hardly a split-second to God’s number,
whatever that is, maybe it’s so high
that it’s uncountable, or infinite
like we learn in regular-school science
hour but I forget what for, outer space
maybe or the age of everything, I’m
ignorant is what my teacher says there
but she’s just being nice, I’m flunking fourth
grade but mine is honest stupidity
and I’m damn proud of it, I’m a genius
if you look at it another way and
Jesus would, as long as I don’t get too
damn proud because that’s the sin of pride and
I’d be claiming to know all what God knows,
whatever that is, everything, I guess,
so much so that He makes the world His own
and at the same time He made the whole she-
bang and I figure if I die empty-
headed that’s pretty much the same as know-
ing all and I’ve got a pretty damn good
start, I may never move on to fifth grade
or ever graduate from high school but
this morning after Sunday School Jesus
wept, I mean I did, I wept, and not because
somebody was bawling for some kin
who kicked and they couldn’t get over his
dead-ness but because at regular school
last Friday all the caterpillars in
the cracked aquarium crawled away and
I was the last one messing with them and
they climbed the walls and took to the ceiling
and fell one after another on us
and the girls screamed and the boys yelled Goddamn
when the butterflies-to-be splashed into their
cartons of un-drunk-up milk and water-
glasses and I got a couple down my
shirt and some of the girls did, too, save that

they wear blouses, it’s in the Bible some-
where, I mean that plague of creepy-crawlies
and Moses or was that frogs and crickets
or locusts but anyway if I had
a pet cricket he’d be Buddy Holly
but anyway I cried and Miss Hooker
cried with me— Letting those little critters
out like that, Gale, you have to confess that
that was pretty stupid and not
pretty
stupid but thoroughly stupid and I
said Yes ma’am, but when we get back to school
tomorrow we’ll have a zillion butter-
flies
and then Miss Hooker cried even harder
but my tears went dry, that would be Jesus
if He really exists and now we know
how many worms make one infinity.