Gale Acuff

With my transistor radio between
the pillow and my left ear I’m in bed.
The local stations have either signed off
or lost power—so I tune in foreign
signals, from St. Louis, Cincinnati,
Cleveland, Nashville, New Orleans. I wonder
why I can’t pull them in during daytime
—too much interference in my hometown,
maybe. I’m nine years old. There’s a world out

there, more than just what shows up on a map
or globe. I can’t go there myself and
our TV gets only three stations so
I have to travel with my ears. Dumbo,
sort of. But I’m not dumb and I don’t fly
and I’m not an elephant. I can nudge
the tuning dial with my index finger,
go from 650 to 1550
on my AM dial. My radio runs

on a little nine-volt battery. I
save my allowances to buy new ones,
the cheapest at thirty-nine cents each and
I get just fifteen cents a week and out
of that I’ve got other expenses—ice
cream and candy bars and Coca Colas
and comic books. I pick up extra change
by sweeping the porch, cleaning the garage,
picking up rocks in the family garden.
I do alright for a kid. Every night

I try to find stations that I’ve never heard
before. I make the battery last by
holding the radio close to my ear.
It’s the only radio I have, no
plug-in kind. I"m not big enough for one,
my parents say. Maybe next year, they say,
when we have more money. Maybe Santa
will being you one. If you’re good. And maybe

not, I think, but I don’t say that, just think
—I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I keep
these baby-blues peeled and have figured out
that Santa brings more presents to the rich
than to the poor. We’re not poor but we’re not
rich. We’re rich enough and poor enough. That’s
middle class, I guess, but we’re a little

less than middle. And I have a brother
and two sisters. Father is a teacher.
Mother stays at home and does the laundry
and the cooking and the shopping, although
she doesn’t drive. So every Saturday
Father takes us into Marietta
to the A & P and she buys groceries.
I saw some rattlesnake meat in a can
but she won’t buy it. Pork brains, too. Classy

foods like that but we’re meat-and-potatoes
and bread and milk and corn flakes
and coffee and rice pudding for dessert.
For our birthdays we have tapioca.
The world comes to me and sits on the shelves
in the A & P but I want to go
to it, the world, I mean. One day, maybe,
I’ll sign up and service my country,
or learn to play guitar and hack around
like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and

other bums and hobos. I look at books
and listen to the radio at night
—all those voices and songs and ads and news
and editorial comments and sports
and weather from many different places.
I wish I could be everywhere at once.
Maybe I can and that’s why I’m human.
Sometimes I feel that the world’s inside me

just waiting to bust out and to be free,
but I’m the universe, the big body
of God, and I’ll hold its blood inside me
if it kills me, not that God can die. So
when I hear the radio at night I’m
really hearing everybody’s prayers.
They’re not prayers, exactly, but at least they
try to get in touch with me. I answer

them. That’s one thing I’m better than God at.
But maybe he won’t suffer foolishness,
doesn’t quite have the patience that I do.
Maybe He listens to St. Louis but
doesn’t have a hankering to visit.
I’m God, He thinks. I include everything
anyway, and there’s nowhere I can go

where I haven’t been. Hell, I made it all.
When we have a thunderstorm what I hear
is static all around the dial. Maybe
that’s God trying to communicate. I
just can’t tune Him in well enough to
know what He’s saying. It’s a strange language
to me. Sometimes it hurts my ear but I
listen anyway, at least until I
fall asleep. And that’s when I understand.

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