I will be teaching creative writing at Black Forest Academy. I am excited about this post, and have spent time sifting through my own work and trying to remember the best advice and exercises my mentors and teachers have put me through over the years.
Delilah & Samson is my retelling of the well-known Bible story in open verse. It is not a theological piece in the least, rather it is a reflection on the use of female archetypes by writers. It is also my longest piece, which has been in the editing process for over three years now. I don’t dare to say this is the final draft, but it is as close as I’ve come so far.
DELILAH & SAMSON
“Samson went back to bed
Not much hair left on his head
He ate a slice of wonder bread and went right back to bed”
– Regina Spektor, ‘Samson’
Whence she came
was a dusty and spicy place.
Her childhood was mostly clad in red.
Her home was arches and spires,
that only fairytales can conjure,
that only a writer’s pen can create.
She had black hair,
like my mother’s,
who you don’t know.
The type of girl
who always got what she wanted.
For this alone the scribbling pens of monks
would remember her.
Who amongst the scribes would recall:
Her love was like
pulled slowly through your heart.
She had bells in her heels,
She pretended to be a bride
and walked slowly up the corridor,
a soft tinkle followed her steps.
She ran through an archway,
and her heel-bells turned to lead,
making heavy clunking sounds as she ran.
She found a quiet spot
and wrote a song,
to mark the occasion
of a ray of sunshine
falling in love with her face.
Interrupted, a pout wrinkled the nose
the sunshine was caressing.
Her mother called her to a room.
A marble room.
A room filled with books.
Books filled with pictures,
because words are for children.
She was set down at a table
piled high with books.
Her mother told her to read them,
to read until she grew up.
She read the pictures,
Finding the words within each.
Words had been pale,
a mild colour and a mild taste on the tongue.
turned to midnight-shades,
Words took on a slightly bitter taste,
that she didn’t like at first.
She read and she read,
her childhood words replaced
with heavier lines to define the world.
She read every page,
of every book.
Emerging from the marble book room,
her mother took her before the king.
Her heel-bells sounded deeper as she walked beside her mother.
They sounded like church bells on a wedding day.
She was gloriously loud as she walked.
Her mother frowned
and bent over to examine her heels.
She kissed each slender ankle,
a mother’s farewell.
The king sat in his fat chair,
that made him look all the thinner.
His gilded chair, that made him look
all the more plain.
The king eyed his daughter,
and told her:
““I don’t like the man I have for you to love.
He is a brute with long hair and bad breath.
I hear he likes to eat wonder bread.”
She stared up at him,
big dark eyes,
eyes anyone would wish for.
“I need his hair.”
He grunted the request,
She stood and shook out her hair.
She stood and shook out her heels.
She stood and shook out her palms.
“When do I get married?”
“Go meet him first, go and he will ask you to marry him,
then you can get his hair for me.”
“I’m not doing it for you.
I’m doing it because I was made with church bells in my heels
to remind that man
how small he is.”
and sat under a tree in Samson’s yard.
She thought about the pictures she had read.
She shifted her legs so that her ankles peeked out,
from under a multitude of gauzy layers.
She tilted her head to one side,
and let a little sunshine,
rest on her neck.
Samson walked by a few times,
not looking her way.
He knew who she was,
off limits in every way.
But she just sat there,
holding her pose.
Silly girl with her attempts
to copy the pictures she had read.
“All right, all right, I’ll ask. Why are you here?”
“To marry you.”
He sat and talked to her.
He finally stood and asked her out for dinner.
They sat across from each other in awkward silence.
He diligently ignored her foreignness,
lest it remind him who she really was.
She tried to think of what to say.
They argued over who should pay,
the result was the waiter being tipped the full price of the meal.
Walking home Samson put a big hand over hers,
and she remembered a picture she had read.
Arriving at her tree,
he toyed with kissing her,
that little face that had listened to him all night.
But he went to bed instead.
She resumed her pose under the tree,
since it had worked so well today,
perhaps it would garner a second date
Samson woke up,
and thought of her,
Samson used to wake up,
and think of God.
But that hadn’t happened in awhile.
He went out,
studiously ignored the tree and bell-heeled girl.
He had some battles to win before lunch.
On his way to lunch,
Lunch was easier than dinner,
he talked and she listened.
She loved his knuckles.
It was a start.
They started to have dinner together every night,
and lunch every other day.
She accumulated gifts under her tree,
baubles and thoughtful trinkets.
She always resumed her pose when she sat there,
she could tell it made him smile.
It started with his knuckles,
his words soon followed,
they were even more wine-flavored than the ones she had read.
She started to talk in pure purple.
It started with his knuckles
and moved to his knees,
the left one was bad but no one else knew.
It started with knuckles,
his words, knees,
finally his face.
The day she looked at his face,
they were undone.
They were having lunch,
the usual, as their order had come to be known.
She loved him then,
and he laughed.
“At least we won’t have to pay for wedding bells, I have them on my heels.”
Their first night together,
he fed her wonder bread.
She didn’t understand,
the plainness of it all.
But it was comforting,
and not like the pictures she had read
had made her think it would be.
When they made love
her heel-bells would peal
as if laughing.
The light in the room was yellow that night.
A good colour for falling in love in new ways.
A good colour for this scene no one would ever understand.
Why did Samson love Delilah?
They would persistently ask.
But if they had been in that room that night,
if they had been at lunch and dinner,
and seen her ankles and her heels,
and her fingers as she let love seep out.
If they had seen all those things
they would ask a different question.
Why waste someone like Delilah
on teaching Samson a lesson?
She tasted like everyone’s favorite flavour.
If everyone’s favorite flavour is salt.
She lay in bed
His big, shaggy, heavy head
on her chest.
She squeezed it tight.
She wished for time to pause
forever on this moment,
when she loved him,
and he still loved her.
Before he lost his eyes
and good sense.
He got up to turn off the yellow lights,
to finally sleep,
next to his foreign bride.
“No, leave it on, there’s something I want to do.”
“Do you need scissors?”
“Yes, a rusty pair.”
She kissed him,
and he discovered bells on her lips too,
loud and heavy.
She kissed him
to remember she loved him.
Maybe it would be enough
for the books
to get it right.
She cut his hair inch by inch.
Tears on his hair
did not change her betrayal,
and no one would remember them anyway.
“Remember, I loved you first.”
“No one will remember that.”
she joined the great pantheon
who live daintily,
and at the convenience of
in the ink of pens.
It hurt, where his eyes had been.
It hurt, where the chains cut in.
The columns came down,
the temple came down.
His heart fell to the ground too.
the only heart that knew,
Delilah’s love had been true.
“Do you take your coffee black?”
The couple looked up,
their dark eyed waitress stared back.
Delilah sighed at how happy they looked,
Hopefully their story would escape the fate
Of being recorded in a book.