Nearing Menopause, I Run into Elvis at Shoprite

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A poem by poet Barbara Crooker:

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.

                                                      Karamu

Lovemetenderelvissingle

Barbara Crooker’s poems  have appeared in magazines such as The Green Mountains Review, Poet Lore, The Hollins Critic, The Christian Science Monitor, Nimrod and anthologies such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature.  Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France; and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.

Her books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press 2008), which won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press 2010), and Gold (Cascade Books, 2013). Her poetry has been read on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), and by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read in the Poetry at Noon series at the Library of Congress.

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Barbara’s latest book is  Gold, a collection of poems about losing her mother.  Look for one of the poems and a giveaway on Friend for the Ride next month!

gold

To learn more about Barbara and her work, visit her website at http://www.barbaracrooker.com/

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