Thursday, 26 October 2017

A poem by Gale Acuff


At my father's gravesite I remember
a joke he once told me, about a man
almost deaf but too proud to admit it.
It was poor then but I'm listening now

and laughing, even though I don't recall
how to tell it. And there's no one else here
but us. If you tell a joke to the dead
and they don't respond, is it a bum one?
If you tell it right but they don't react
is it no longer funny? No, they're just

out of earshot. He buys a hearing aid
and is glad that it works well. A friend
asks him, What kind is it? And the man looks
at his watch and replies, It's 10:30.
It's funny as Hell now, and I mouth it
like kind words at my father's funeral.
And I laugh, as I should've laughed back when
he told it to me, ten years ago, as
I sat on the porch steps, crying for my
divorce and unemployment. What he meant

I'm still trying to figure--Life's funny,
perhaps. Don't take things so seriously:
look at me, I'm dying--you don't see me
all broken up. The closest I come to

the present again is through memory
--I shut my eyes and there it is again,
the present updated, a second chance
to say the right thing. It will last as long
as I want to live in the past, forget
that it isn't real. It was, but it's dead,
and it's risen, and it cannot remain

but must dwell in another place, if it is
a place. Heaven. The bosom of God. At
the feet of the Christ. The hymns of angels.
I don't know, but I'm sure of one thing: love
is all I know and all I need to know

--but then, he'd have a joke for that, too, so
perhaps it's laughter and not so much love.
I open my eyes and the water flows.
I love you, Father--I'm sorry I was

a shitty son. What the hell, a voice says.
I ain't gone yet, so mind me in future.

About Gale Acuff

I have had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Desca nt, Poem, Adirondack Review, Coe Review, Worcester Review, Mary land Poetry Review, Arkansas Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. I have 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).

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