Two Poems, by Gale Acuff
Delilah and Samson
Man, do I love my wife since she shaved her
head. And I mean bald, as if it never
was intended to bear hair. I like sports
so she’s just about any ball I can
think of–billiard, bowling, bearing, BB.
One night I dared her to do it and she
did. It must have been the Jim Beam. I helped
–ran the clippers over her, shaved her smooth
with my razor and cream, and then buffed her.
You can open your eyes now, I said, and
look. She couldn’t, or rather, she wouldn’t.
When she finally did she was too scared
to look in the mirror. O, Christ, she prayed.
What the Hell have I done. She felt for her
tresses and locks but she came away with
handfuls of nothing. You! You bastard! You
did this to me! O, boo hoo hoo. Now, wait,
I say. Look at the record. I show her
the sheet of paper on which I wrote, last
night, I, Mrs. Acuff, do hereby let
my husband, Mr. Acuff, hereafter
known as the Party of the Second Part,
cut off all my hair. Furthermore, I won’t
blame him for talking me into something
which I’d never do if I were sober,
which I’m not, because I’m exceedingly
drunk. See here, I say. That’s something you wrote,
she says. Yes, I say. But you signed it. O,
boo hoo hoo, she cries. Baby, I say (she
does look like a big bald-headed baby),
let’s get it over with. Here’s the mirror.
O, I can’t look, she cries. O, boo hoo hoo.
Sooner or later you’ll have to, I say.
Never, she says. Never again. Be brave,
I tell her. Face yourself. She blows her nose
and takes a long look. Well, I’ll be a son
of a bitch, she says. Not likely, I laugh.
I really look, okay, don’t I? Oh, sure,
I say–just the kind of woman I’d want
to take home to Mother. Haw haw haw haw!
I fall on the bed. I can’t stop laughing.
Sweep up all this hair off the floor, she snaps.
Now. I obey, and dump it in the trash.
When I return she’s naked on the bed.
Shave the rest of me, she says, if you’re man
enough. I’m not, I say. I can’t do it.
I thought not, she says. I knew you couldn’t
–bah. Go make breakfast. Make some for yourself
while you’re at it. I go. I make. I’m back
and she’s sitting up in bed. Feed me, bitch,
she says. I do. Now go away. I do,
to watch golf: Nicklaus putts from fifteen feet
–yes-s-s-s. Where’s my putter, I think. And my balls.
I’m waiting for the water: the man will come
with a ten gallon-or-so jug of it
on the rear of his motorcycle, tote
it up the seven flights of stairs to
my flat, tear off the wrapper on the mouth,
invert it and attach it to the stand.
I’ll pay him about a $1.00 US.
Then he’ll take the empty jug away and
I’ll have enough to drink again, for two
or three weeks. He doesn’t speak English–I
don’t speak Chinese, but he’ll speak his lingo
and I’ll speak mine and so we’ll understand
the ocean that separates us also
bridges. I don’t envy him his labor
–driving water through 105 degrees
and more in this Chinese city to me,
carrying sixty pounds or thereabouts
on his shoulder to the top of the stairs.
It’s what he’s paid to do, however–it’s
a living, and he helps me stay alive.
When he carries away the empty jug
I suddenly feel full–I’m drowning in
significance, as if he’s ferrying
my lifeless body away. I’m watching
my own funeral procession, living
to see my old shell descending downstairs.
He’s left me a new me again, the old
to be purified and filled up again,
strapped to his vehicle, and sent to slake
more thirst. I’m not the water itself, just
its vessel. I feel his arms around me.
And when he’s late I lick my lips and dream.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Poem, Adirondack Review, Coe Review, Worcester Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Arkansas Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. He is the author of three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).