Third Party – Gale Acuff

At Miss Hooker’s funeral I’ll fall in
love with her all over again, red hair
and green eyes and freckles and her eyes closed
like they used to be when she recited
the Lord’s Prayer at the end of Sunday
School class and I peeked to see how she looked

with them closed, maybe asleep or resting
them and now she’s dead. I never touched her
but I always wanted to even though
I’m 10 to her 25 but now that
she’s gone I’m not sure how old she is
or when her soul will soar to Heaven, I

must’ve missed that class, whether it must wait
inside her body until Judgment Day
or if it jumps free as soon as she dies
choking on a bone at the Korn Dawg King.
I’ll wish I could’ve been there to save her,
to pry her lips apart, they sure look sweet,

and reach down deep into her throat and pull
it out, the bone I mean, or push it down
into her belly, I’m no doctor but
I think my fingers would’ve seen for my
eyes. Everyone would’ve cried, You saved her,
and when she gets back on her feet she’ll say

Oh thank you, Gale – my, that was a close one
and now you’re my hero, and of course she’ll
kiss me, but on the cheek I guess and not
the lips, which I can understand because
we’ll both be embarrassed, and then she’ll fall
in love with me even though she’s fifteen

years older but she’ll wait until I was
legal, 16 I guess but she’ll find out,
and then invite me to her place for some
coffee maybe, which I don’t drink but I’ll
learn, or pie and ice cream, I like apple,
the pie I mean, and prefer my ice cream

chocolate, and the pie should be piping
hot and the ice cream almost frozen so
that when she puts a scoop (or three) on top
it’s like Heaven coming to grips with Hell
or matter with antimatter and it
explodes into something spectacular

like sweet romance. I’ll tell Miss Hooker, Oh,
I just did what anybody would do,
even though they didn’t, they panicked but
I was cool and saved the woman I love
and for my reward God gives her to me
to have and to hold and so on and so

forth. But then she’ll be dead so she won’t know
how I feel, not that she felt the same but
I figure she’s gone and her soul’s in
Heaven, I mean if it doesn’t have to
hang in the grave until Judgment Day, so
she’s where God is and since I say my prayers

every night before I go to bed
and since she’s On High or in God’s general
area then maybe she’ll overhear
and then she’ll feel better about being
dead and maybe she’ll answer my prayers
or at least give me a sign she’s listening –

she could come to me in a dream or as
an angel. I think she’d look good in wings.
Or I’ll wake up one morning to find on
my other pillow a lock of her red
hair, or I’ll look in the mirror and one
of my eyes, or maybe both, will be green

or I’ll see freckles popping up. When they
lower Miss Hooker into her resting
place maybe I’ll cry Stop! – the way they do
on TV when some couple’s getting spliced

but a third party objects. But I’ll keep
my mouth shut while they sprinkle dirt on top

and then they use a shovel and then I’ll
split with it still not filled in but later
some guy with a Bobcat will do it or
that’s what I would do, I’ll make Miss Hooker
as comfortable as I can while she’s
dead until it hurts. It hurts already.

I have had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. I have authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.
I have taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.

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