Around by Gale Acuff

Why do I want to see the world before
I die? It’s not like I’ll be able to
enjoy it later, when I’m stuck in one
place and can never leave, unless my soul
can split my body and wander where it
pleases, and even then, how will it be
able to touch the things it’s missed in life?
I can’t go anywhere without getting
in trouble anyway. At 44
I had to go to China–China–for
a year to teach English; I left Texas
independent. I returned–to Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, taught for one term.
Two weeks into that I knew I had to
go back to China, where I spent three years.
My mother lives in California–from
Shanghai I flew to visit her, then off
to Georgia, a few weeks with my brother.
I almost take a job in Alabama
but turn it down to come to Palestine.
I’ve been teaching here for one semester
and now I’ll probably leave again–for
the Marshall Islands, or the UAE,
some other place that’s not America.
It’s not that I don’t like America
but that’s it’s so like life that leaving it
is like dying and going to Heaven.
It must be the plane and the long flight to
a new home, college employees waiting
for me at the airport–they welcome me
like angels. In a Ford or Hyundai van
they drive me to my apartment. I crash
for a few hours, although there is no time
in Heaven, and then they come for me, take
me to dinner. We toast one another.
A few months slide–I’m off to another
Afterlife, another Paradise. I
can earn more money in America
but, remember, I’m not even alive there,
though the dollar’s stronger there than in death,
so I do alright if I don’t go back
–after conversion, there isn’t much left,
and a few days among mortals leaves me
eager again for what’s undiscovered,
even if that’s the United States,
the land of e pluribus unum and
toilet paper in the public bathrooms
and tampon boxes studded with flowers
and the insanity of 9/11
when God struck us down for flying too high.
Two towers, anyway. All right: not God
and not Satan but ordinary Joes.
I have had poetry published in AscentOhio JournalDescant, PoemAdirondack ReviewCoe ReviewWorcester ReviewMaryland Poetry Review, Arkansas ReviewFlorida ReviewSouth Carolina ReviewCarolina QuarterlySouth Dakota ReviewSequential 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).
I have taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

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