I can’t seem to write about Storyland,
that attraction on Highway 41
in Marietta, Georgia, where we went
after supper at the Chick, Chuck, & Shake
Drive-in, also known as The Big Chicken,
its landmark fowl strutting like a rooster
at the corner of Roswell Street and that
four-lane 41. I chewed chili dogs

and chips in the back seat of our station
wagon–’57 Ford Country Squire,
green and white with lightning-bolt
-reflectors on each side. I made a mess
but it was Friday evening; Mother had
Saturday and Sunday to clean me up
–mustard, ketchup, fried frankfurter stains. And

then to Storyland, which I remember
as a place for getting out of the car
to see, walking from the parking lot, my
sisters, older, and my parents. We
are stories in ourselves, but I haven’t
yet learned that. I am running toward the gate,

the first to glimpse the cut-outs, set-ups, card
-board fictions–Snow White, I think, and The Three
Pigs, from whose race I’ve just wolfed my dinner.
Other fairy-talers, which I recall
though dimly. Now I know we went to lose

ourselves. At last I know why. Here I sit
in a dumpling restaurant in China,
we’ve never left the place, are still in there,
telling ourselves. In this restaurant, others,
Chinese, watch me as I eat and pause to
jot something down, memory recalled. Time
bookmarked. There’s five thousand years of history
in China–they’re keen on myth and legend,
recollection, long life–but I can’t tell

them about Storyland: I entered the
place and never came out and neither
did my family, but no one does, no
-body goes out of the world, really. If
I keep maundering from tale to tale, I’ll
come upon my father, who will say, Son,
don’t go wandering off like that, you had
your mother scared to death. I could tell him,
I’m sorry–I got lost, and he reply,
You’re a big boy now. It’s time to go home.
Let’s ride, Ranger. Your mother and sisters
are waiting at the gate. Where we came in
is where we should leave but you can’t go back

to where you always are. I’m not ready
anyway. There is no leaving–I want
to tell him that but I don’t know how and
I don’t know how I know although I do
but I guess he knows it, too–he’s sleepy
and he wants to go home but we know we
can’t leave, not really. It’s a true story.


Gale Acuff–who has taught university courses in the US, China, and Palestine–has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.