When the poles are shorted, the load becomes the battery itself, to make it short ( ha ha no pun intended) the battery will generate so much hydrogen, that either the heat from the battery or the spark from the short will ignite the hydrogen. This makes the battery explode.
If the short is removed in time, the hydrogen will dissipate, but the plates in the acid bath, will have the coating flake off. when the debris reaches the bottom of the plates, the plates short out one cell at a time. it may take a week or two but the battery should be on death watch.
If you bairly arced it so it poped and scaired the crap out of ya,
and it was a momentary short, I wouldn't worry.