Poems

The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives

She reads, of course, what he’s doing, shaking Nixon’s hand, dating this starlet or that, while he is faithful to her like a stone in her belly, like the actual love child, its bills and diapers. Once he had kissed her and time had stood still, at least some point seems to remain back there as a place to return to, to wait for. What is she waiting for? He will not marry her, nor will he stop very often. Desireé will grow up to say her father is dead. Desireé will imagine him standing on a timeless street, hungry for his child. She will wait for him, not in the original, but in a gesture copied to whatever lover she takes. He will fracture and change to landscape, to the Pope, maybe, or President Kennedy, or to a pain that darkens her eyes.

“Once,” she will say, as if she remembers, and the memory will stick like a fishbone. She knows how easily she will comply when a man puts his hand on the back of her neck and gently steers her. She knows how long she will wait for rescue, how the world will go on expanding outside. She will see her mother’s photo of Elvis shaking hands with Nixon, the terrifying conjunction. A whole war with Asia will begin slowly, in her lifetime, out of such irreconcilable urges. The Pill will become available to the general public, starting up a new waiting in that other depth. The egg will have to keep believing in its timeless moment of completion without any proof except in the longing of its own body. Maris will break Babe Ruth’s record while Orbison will have his first major hit with “Only the Lonely,” trying his best to sound like Elvis.

—from The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2004