Dual Identity

By Gale Acuff

When we get home from eating supper out
at the Davis Brothers’ Cafeteria,
I’ve got two new comic books to consume
and digest up in my attic bedroom,
my dog lengthwise at the foot of the bed
and my toes just touching his head so I
can scratch behind his ears without being
distracted from my heroes’ monthly go
at wiping out evil in their hometowns.
I’d like to do likewise in my own so
one day maybe I’ll be a policeman
and graduate to detective. From there
it’s not so far to Chief of Police.
Or maybe my folks will die and leave me

a pile of money so that I can be
a crimefighter by night, with a secret
identity, but in my daily life
I’ll be just an ordinary citizen.
I guess I could be a cop and a caped
crusader, as well, but I’m afraid of
burning out – my parents are teachers. They
should know. And they don’t even have dual
identities, unless, while I’m asleep,

one or the other creeps out nightly and
patrols the city, though it’s just a town,
and most of what I know’s just neighborhood.
Father slips out his – Mother’s, too – bedroom
window at night, say. I won’t be gone long,
he whispers. Just routine. Don’t you worry.
Oh, Dearest, Mother says. I can’t help it.
Now, now, he says. I’ve got a job to do.
And you do it well, she says. And they kiss,
even though he’s wearing his mask. Then he’s

gone, righting wrongs and using karate
and pulling from his utility belt
knockout gas and boomerangs and climbing
ropes and infrared goggles. It’s a big
belt. Or maybe it’s even Mother who
leaves, a daring damsel. No one suspects
her – maybe not even Father, who snores
right through her duty. She creeps in beside
him when she’s done her stealthy deeds. Maybe

they even go out together and watch
each other’s back and double-team evil
and leave the baddies trussed up at the bank
or art museum or the box office
at the Miracle Theater, downtown.
Sometimes at night I hear them making noise.
Funny how they don’t even try to be
quiet. Father moans and Mother shouts, or
sometimes it’s the other way around. I’m
suspicious. Once I went downstairs to check

on them. I put my ear to the door and
accidentally pushed it open. Who
the Hell is that
, Father hollers. Help, I’m not
, Mother cries. (She really is
about as decent a person as you’ll ever meet).
Sorry, Father, I say. I didn’t mean to
break in – it’s just that I heard strange noises
and was worried that foul play was afoot.
Father says, If you don’t go back to bed
I’ll give you foul play
. Oh, yes sir, I say.

I couldn’t see what was going on but
was glad there wasn’t any action there.
Since then I have more faith that evil men
can’t hurt them because their hearts are pure, or
pure enough, at least. And the next morning
– always Saturday morning – don’t they look
younger. And happier. They ask me how

Superman and Wonder Woman got on
last night, and smile at each other, and make
me smile, and I always say, They got on
right well, I didn’t miss a thing,
and they laugh out loud so I laugh, too, and

wonder how long I’ll have to wait before
I’m old enough that a little evil
won’t hurt me and may even do some good,
like a shot you take to make you weak just
enough that you don’t get sick unto death
when you catch what will kill you otherwise.
And where exactly I came from. And how.


Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Descant, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Adirondack Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Books: Buffalo Nickel (2004), The Weight of the World (2006), and The Story of My Lives (2009). Gale has taught university English in the US, Palestine, and the People’s Republic of China (where he will be teaching again in September).

One Response to “Dual Identity”

  1. Mary says:

    I wrote a paragraph about why I love your poem–and it disappeared as I was trying to send it. Must run–so I can’t rewrite all it all again. Just know it is a vivid, poignant, funny and dear piece. Just grand.