Friday, May 25, 2007
Poetry Friday: Emily and Elvis
My graduate school professor for my class on public libraries was the director of the Fairfax County Library System. He dressed in pressed grey suits and spoke with a mellow Virginia accent. He was a big fan of Elvis Presley. Every week, at the beginning of each class, he asked us to tell him about any Elvis sightings we had encountered. At first, I thought he was asking us to tell him if we'd seen Elvis standing in line for french-fries at one of the cafeterias or checking out a copy of Leaves of Grass in the main campus library. While our professor would have been thrilled had we actually seen The King in person, we were actually looking for Elvis in the media. Over the semester, I realized that my professor was teaching us to look for things with our librarian peripheral vision. Soon, I was finding Elvis everywhere. A few years ago, I sent him via email a copy of the poem, "Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in Heaven," by Hans Ostrom. So far, the poem is my favorite of all my Elvis sightings.
Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in Heaven
They call each other E. Elvis picks
wildflowers near the river and brings
them to Emily. She explains half-rhymes to him.
In heaven Emily wears her hair long, sports
Levis and western blouses with rhinestones.
Elvis is lean again, wears baggy trousers
and T-shirts, a letterman's jacket from Tupelo High.
They take long walks and often hold hands.
She prefers they remain just friends. Forever.
Emily's poems now contain naugahyde, Cadillacs,
electricity, jets, TV, Little Richard and Richard Nixon.
The rock-a-billy rhythm makes her smile.
Elvis likes himself with style. This afternoon
he will play guitar and sing "I Taste a Liquor
Never Brewed" to the tune of "Love Me Tender."
Emily will clap and harmonize. Alone
in their cabins later, they'll listen to the river
and nap. They will not think of Amherst
or Las Vegas. They know why God made them roommates.
It's because America was their hometown.
It's because God is a thing without feathers.
It's because God wears blue suede shoes.
Copyright 2000 by Hans Ostrom
You can find the rest of the Poetry Friday roundup at a wrung sponge. If you have a poem of your own, please feel free to participate. Poetry Friday is not a "members only" gig. Consider yourselves officially invited now and in the future.
Edit 06/08/2007: Hans Ostrom says, The poem is included in THE COAST STARLIGHT: COLLECTED POEMS 1976-2006 (Indianapolis, 2006)--in case you know of libraries, librarians, or bookstores that might want to order a copy. It's available from Amazon and B & N but also from Ingram and Baker & Taylor, the distributors libraries use.
I'm off to order a copy right now.