Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia(1956), and reared in Powder Springs and Marietta. I’ve lived in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi (and Oklahoma and West Virginia). I’ve taught at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Tennessee Tech, North Carolina State University, LSU-Baton Rouge, Mississippi State University, and elsewhere (Texas Tech, for example).
One day when I die maybe Miss Hooker
will come to my funeral and cry
and cry because she misses me, my soul,
up in Heaven now, only my body
left on earth for everyone to see
until they stash it somewhere underground.
I guess by the time she blows her nose for
the first time I’ll be standing in front of
God, waiting for His judgement. He’ll decide
whether I get to hang in Heaven or
I have to burn in Hell. If Hell it is
I’ll point out that Heaven’s closer, the door
is right behind Him, but if He sends me
to Hell it’s just more trouble for Him. Nice
try, He’ll say, but I’m God–it’s no trouble
at all for me to put you there. No strain.
Sometimes I don’t pay enough attention
in Sunday School, so I can’t remember
what they tell me that I really believe,
whether my soul remains in my body
until the Judgement Day or leaves as soon
as I’m dead. But maybe while Miss Hooker
cries I’ll be at the bottom of the box
but can still hear her. They’ll cover me up
and go away and my soul will be there
stuck inside my body until it rots
and then I guess the coffin will be my
body and when it’s gone I guess the earth.
I wonder if all that’s in the Bible.
If it isn’t, it should be. Miss Hooker
is my Sunday School teacher and I could
ask her but whenever I’m about to
I always choke and then she buries me.
One day I want to marry Miss Hooker,
my Sunday School teacher, because that way
I’m sure to go to Heaven, like she will,
and God will feel sorry for me even
more because she’s 25 to my 10
and when I’m ready to marry she’ll be
even older, always by fifteen years,
and probably die first, leaving me to
wait until I see her again, unless
I go to Hell but I hope not–it’s hot
down there, Miss Hooker says, and there’s torture
from Satan and he really knows his stuff.
And anyway I love Miss Hooker, her
red hair and green eyes and freckles and moles
and dimples. She’s got everything I don’t
and is a woman besides. That’s a plus.
Of course, she might not love me the way I
love her but I’m working on that–I pray
every night that she’ll see what I’ll be
when I’m old enough to marry, 16
maybe, to her 31. She’ll see me
when I’m grown before I am, I mean. That’s
smart. And every night before we fall
asleep she’ll tell me a Bible story.
That can’t hurt to get me into Heaven
and if she dies before I do she’ll put
in a good word for me with God and so
when I die I’ll get to dwell with Him and
see her again. I’m not sure which one I’d
like to see the most. I know Miss Hooker
better. Maybe that will change. Maybe we’ll
get divorced. That might cut down my chances
of getting into Heaven–hers, too–but
if we both go to Heaven at least we’ll be
together. Take that, God, we’ll cry from way
below in Hell. It would be just my luck
that I go to Heaven and Miss Hooker
doesn’t. I wonder if I’ll forget her
while I’m singing and playing the harp and
learning to use my wings. Sometimes it’s good
to forget. I hope she’ll remember me
down there. I just want her to be happy.