The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Seduction of the Innocent

Gale Acuff

Mr. Smothers is showing us a film
here in Social Living class, seventh grade.
He’s just given us the school’s take on sex
–it’s good if you’re married, bad if you’re not.
He wears no wedding band on his finger
so I’m confused–he’s old enough for it
but if he isn’t hitched-up and gets some
anyway, is that permitted? I long

to raise my hand and ask him but I can’t
–he might reject me, throw me out of his
class. Then I’d be standing out in the cold
of the hall, afraid to knock to get back
in, and afraid not to. Twenty years down

the line, I’ll fall in love for the first time
and she’ll take me to school. She’ll have answers
for me. She’ll laugh at some of my questions.
I’ll be at her door and knocking, knowing
that she’s home, but she won’t answer. I’ll phone
and quickly say Please don’t hang up but she’ll
hang up and punctuate my plea with click
and dial tone. I’ll write letters never
answered–I’ll bet they’re never read. The film

we watched this morning was about two teens
who didn’t control their urges. A voice
rolled over as they warmed up together
on her parents’ living room sofa. Or
his parents’. I couldn’t see anything
–no hidden skin–but I think the point was
don’t get pregnant and don’t get her pregnant.
After the show, Mr. Smothers asked us
if we had questions. How do you meet girls

like that one, I wanted to ask, but thought
better. Or worse. Then he told us about
deodorant, so we won’t smell bad, and
a brand of acne cream available
only by prescription. Then the bell rang

and we got out of there in a hurry.
Tomorrow, I think he said, it’s tampons,
and we boys had better not laugh because
if we do we go straight to the Office
to be punished and we should remember
that our Principal is a woman. I
like Mr. Smothers but for a young guy

he’s awfully tense. Tom Perker sits behind
me and he whispers that Mr. Smothers
could use a good lay and I whisper back
I could use one, too, whatever that is.
I paid attention but it didn’t take,

so after school Tom tells me about sex
–penises and vaginas but he says
dicks and pussies. To hear Tom tell it, he
should be teaching the class–maybe I’d learn
something. Still, I’m loyal to the teacher
–he knows a lot but can’t put it across,
or I’m too stupid to learn. Still, I made

an 80 on the exam–I know my
gonads from my ovaries but that film
never showed us how they come together.
Yesterday we say a film with Sonny
Bono warning us of the dangers of drugs.
He’s got red eyes. Maybe he’s been crying?

About the author

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Adirondack Review, Florida Review, Maryland Poetry Review, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara 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 (BrickHouse, 2009). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.