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.

9 comments:

Brad the Gorilla said...

Landlady, I'm shocked, simply shocked, that you never showed me this poem before. You know what an Elvis fan I am. After all, I did win 4th place in the Elvis Invitationals (and would have won 2nd place had it not been for the brawl).

Fridaysweb said...

Oooh! that poem is priceless! I have to admit, however, when I saw the letter "E", all I could think about was Sesame Street. "E". "Stands for Elephant." "Stands for Ernie."...etc. Oh, "E" could stand for etcetera!

HipWriterMama said...

This is too cool. Love it!

jules said...

How did I live without that poem in my life? Thank you.

By the way, I might be picking your brain soon (if I have your permission). I might just maybe have two storytelling opportunities coming my way, and, though I have all kinds of storytelling texts and articles and such from grad school (I took a grad-level storytelling course) and though I've done it many times before, I'm nervous and rusty, and if I could pick your brain for story ideas and feedback and guidance, I'd owe you big time.

limpy99 said...

Cool poem, but I'm even more impressed that a gorilla could pull off a good enough Elvis impersonation to place 4th!

Lone Star Ma said...

GREAT poem. I like thinking about librarian peripheral vision. (Have you read Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher?)

GraceAnne LadyHawk said...

That is lovely. That is perfect. That enriched an evening already becoming pretty nice.

I do love it. And I shall share.

cloudscome said...

Oh wow I love this poem!

I saw Elvis at the ALA Mid Winter meeting a few years ago. I got my picture taken with him and some of my fellow librarians.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed the poem. I want to see cloudscome posing with Elvis at the ALA Midwinter meeting, too!