Two Poems, “Trinity” and “Chore,” by Gale Acuff

by Gale Acuff

Trinity

If my parents separate I’ll go live
with—which one? I have a choice. I stand there
on the little oval rug on the oak
floor and look at one and then the other
and then the one again—by then, of course,
the other—and fall to my knees (I’m short
for my age so it isn’t difficult)
and cover my eyes with my hands, hoping
that when I open them and look up, there

will be God, and if not God, then Jesus.
And either one will surely satisfy,
though I forget if, at church, They’re equal,
or the Son of God is the number two
man, that is, God’s number one, not that He’s
a man—Jesus, I mean, not God, unless
Jesus is God—but is, at least Divine,
making God even more Divine, or is
that Diviner? What the Hell—Divinest.

Then there’s the matter of the Holy Ghost
—the third other, or the third in line, or
the Speaker of the House to Jesus Christ’s
Vice President (Who would take over for
God were God to die in office or be
impeached. But then I open my eyes to

the fireplace, empty even of ashes,
down which Santa Claus descended—until
Mother told me that he didn’t exist.

Father, I say, softly but steadily,
I’ll come live with you, please, Sir. Mother moans,
or at least a voice chokes on her silence.
Father says, I’d wish you reconsider,
Son. Your mother isn’t in good spirits.
Father walks over to where she’s crumpled
and sits beside her. Now they’re holding hands.
I rise, taller than before, taller than

ever. Father says to Mother, Now, now,
Honey. We don’t have to do this, you know.
She cries on his chest, head beneath his chin,
or is he resting his chin on her head?

And here I thought we’d had our last supper.
Now they’re stuck with each other again, so
I guess I should join them, now that I’m dead.

 

Chore

Here’s my wife at the window. We’re divorced

and I’m washing the dishes by myself
and she’s not alongside to receive cups
and plates and glasses, but I see her face
at the window, my right hand choking a rag
—I bury it, and soap- and water-blood,
deep into the bottom of blue tumblers
which she left me. Take all the good things,

I said—the services and the silverware
—and I’ll be happy with the essentials
alone. So I kept the cast-off glasses,
cheap plates and flatware, a pot and a pan
which I always tried to use anyway
because I was afraid of damaging the new
again. And when I pull the plug the parts
of me left over from bringing myself
together again at dinner disappear

down the drain or line in flecks on the sink-sides
or hide in a ring of foam at the throat
of the hole. I’ve used too much soap again.
It’s lying like a drift at the bottom.
I squeeze too hard. I waste what I don’t need
but if I don’t need it, why save it? Still,
I looked up from the nadir and I saw
her out the window, appearing to me

to be laughing. To tell the truth, I smiled
right through her and she went away.
I made her up again—she came out of
what I was creating when here I thought
I was only cleaning up. I made her
in my kitchen laboratory. She
conjured up like alchemy. I mean, I’m
here and she’s opposite of me but
it’s a partnership wherever we are.

This plate’s so clean that I can’t see myself.

ς

Gale Acuff has poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Worcester Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, Adirondack Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (at press).

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

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