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near the peanut butter. He calls me ma’am, like the sweet
southern mother’s boy he was. This is the young Elvis,
slim-hipped, dressed in leather, black hair swirled
like a duck’s backside. I’m in the middle of my life,
the start of the body’s cruel betrayals, the skin beginning
to break in lines and creases, the thickening midline.
I feel my temperature rising, as a hot flash washes over,
the thermostat broken down. The first time I heard Elvis
on the radio, I was poised between girlhood and what comes next.
My parents were appalled, in the Eisenhower fifties, by rock
and roll and all it stood for, let me only buy one record,
“Love Me Tender,” and I did.
I have on a tight orlon sweater, circle skirt,
eight layers of rolled-up net petticoats, all bound
together by a woven straw cinch belt. Now I’ve come
full circle, hate the music my daughter loves, Nine
Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Crash Test Dummies.
Elvis looks embarrassed for me. His soft full lips
are like moon pies, his eyelids half-mast, pulled
down bedroom shades. He mumbles, “Treat me nice.”
Now, poised between menopause and what comes next, the last
dance, I find myself in tears by the toilet paper rolls,
hearing “Unchained Melody” on the sound system. “That’s all
right now, Mama,” Elvis says, “Anyway you do is fine.” The bass
line thumps and grinds, the honky tonk piano moves like an ivory
river, full of swampy delta blues. And Elvis’s voice wails above
it all, the purr and growl, the snarl and twang, above the chains
of flesh and time.
Copyright 2005 Barbara Crooker. From Radiance (Word Press, 2005).
Barbara Crooker’s many books include Some Glad Morning (Pitt, 2019).
Source: The Current
Barbara, I have a clear memory of sitting on the neighbor’s stone wall and listening to Elvis and the Beatles – and then before I could blink, menopause was there! A different rhythm entirely, so I blend it into dance and into poems. Love your poem! Thank you for a gorgeous memory…
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Your poetry never gets old. My birthday, 78!, is coming up March 30. My aunt took me to see Elvis on the very night of my 13th birthday!! We sat in the front row of Kiel Auditorium in StLouis. Elvis sang Dont Be Cruel. … i can sing it in my mind as I write. The whole audience went crazy screaming for a long time and I lost my voice for days.
Thank you so much ……..🙏‼️
Thanks, Marilyn! Gosh, we’re the same age; I’d forgotten this– Lucky, lucky you, seeing Elvis in person!
What a recollection, Barbara! The sublime voice among the peanut-butter jars, the layers of crinolines, the sadly expanded mid-line. I’m there for the whole lovely ride.
I’m there too, Mary!
Thanks! Those crinolines were something else on gym day!
What a wonderful poem, Barbara! I was with you there in that store. I wore those petticoats, the latest fashion in clothes and music that came to Europe from the US of A. And my mother was apalled. Sometimes it seems only yesterday – our ‘revolution’.
Lovely, Headed out on the same boat!
Me and you and Blue Hawaii!
I had a “Blue Hawaii” in Hawaii–was determined to try a different cocktail every night. It was, um, different–