We lie in our underwear in front of
the boxfan, and each other. Between us
comic books and baseball cards and hangman
—at which I never win, not because you’re
smarter, but because I love you and loss
is victory: I’m second-best and glad
of it, because if I reach across to
touch your hand, that right hand that throws a
screwball and strikes me out at sandlot ball,
I’ll lose more—you won’t let me spend the night
again, lie here on the living room rug
(your mother the nurse drunk and passed out in
your bedroom which she’d mistaken for hers, and
she’s probably taken you as well but
I could never ask you, you’d never tell,
you don’t want to talk about it but I
know) with the Braves playing on the west coast
late, extra innings, the volume mute since
we don’t like Milo Hamilton shouting
when there’s no reason to get excited.
What’ll you trade me for this Willie Mays?
I got a new Hank Aaron here. Maybe
this Joe Torre and a Tim McCarver
and a player to be named later, ha ha?
I like your comic books, man. Man, I went
out to eat with my parents last night and
finished early, I don’t like their desserts,
and went next door to the Rex-All Drugs but
couldn’t find any comics I wanted,
just war stories and romance and Here Comes
Herbie. No Batman, no Fantastic Four.
Not even Tales of the Unexpected,
which nobody buys. I did see Blackhawk
—the art looked good but the story’s boring.
When it’s after midnight we’re lying there
with baseball players and superheroes
between us. Maybe this is what it’s like
being married. But we’re twelve-year-old boys
and my parents, teachers, and the Reverend
Silk all say that soon there will come a change
in us—voices going rough, eyes for girls.
Secondary sex characteristics.
We know better than to touch each other
although I don’t really know if you want
to touch me; I’m not sure what I’d do if
you did. Leave it alone, I guess. Let it
drop. Forget it. We’ll never be women
again like this; we’ll have to satisfy
ourselves like men do. Men don’t touch other
men except to kill them, or offer praise
for a good play in the field—it can’t be
just routine, like an easy pop fly or
grounder. I don’t want to kiss you, I don’t
want to be kissed, but this is our last chance.
I won’t let it happen. I’ll prop myself
on an elbow and watch you doze, now that
my eyes have adjusted to the darkness,
and think about my mother and how she
depends on a strong man to get her through
sadness that a strong man causes her. Men.
Thirty-seven years later and you’re a
Baptist preacher with a flock somewhere near
Athens, Georgia—I found you on the ‘net.
I wonder if you ever think of me.
Yes. Yes, you do. Whatever else he feels,
you’ve got to have faith that Superman loves
Jimmy Olsen more than Lois Lane—he
gave him that signal watch, so when Olsen’s
in a jam, he pushes a button and
Superman shows. But he never reveals
his secret identity—he just loves
as much as he can get away with it,
though I’ve seen Supes snatch his pal from danger
and hold him tighter than he holds Lois
and soars with him as high into the clouds.
As for me, I’ve never made anything
of myself: I knock about from job to
job, flop to flop, used car to used car, gal
to gal. I never developed. You and
God did this to me and I could kiss you.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in many journals and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.
See more of Gale's work in 6.4 here