'77

A Saturday poem

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the silver transistor played

Love Me Tender, I remember, so much

like a church hymn, its single speaker airing

The King, intermittent static, the melancholy

voiceover of a radio DJ paying tribute to Presley

the day he died as my mother and her lady-friends

sipped cheap wine and listened, crying

around our family’s chrome-edged kitchen table.

They shared stories of the superstar

they never met: the first they’d heard Heartbreak

Hotel, Hound Dog; the first they’d ogled

his upper lip, twin sideburns blacker than Christ

is holy. Those hips, their controversial sway. How

could he not be music, that gem-eyed backwoods

mama’s boy from Tupelo—blues infused

even in a hometown name—who crooned

his life on 45s, LPs, 8-tracks into infamy. How

could I know I’d pen this verse at 43, one year

older than he lived, restless to purge Suspicious

Minds from the throat’s hum, the record player

in my head; the one I can’t explain that kicks on

like some gospel spewing from the pulpit,

a communion wafer stuck to the tongue

stubborn to dissolve, an unhindered rising

from the gut where I’m left with no choice

but to preach it.

Rebecca Clever

Rebecca Clever is founder, editor and publisher of Blast Furnace (www.blastfurnacepress.com), an independent, online literary journal based in Pittsburgh. Her poetry, non-fiction and interviews have been published in various newspapers, literary journals and anthologies. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and is the first recipient of the Laurie Mansell Reich poetry award, co-sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and Chatham University. Elvis Presley was born 79 years ago, on Jan. 8, 1935.


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