Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.
In this week’s poem Elizabeth Garber, the former poet laureate of Belfast, explores the sighting of an Elvis look-alike in a Maine town.
The Man Who Looked Like Elvis
By Elizabeth W. Garber
No one remembers when the man with the pomade-
combed crescendo of jet black hair first appeared,
but we all quietly pay attention to him. Two summers
ago a guitar was strapped over his back when we eyed
him wandering miles along Route 1. Last year, when
his hair was bleached reddish blond, we wondered to
ourselves if he’d given up on Elvis. This spring, his hair
is black again. All over town, we nod the same nod:
Elvis is back. Passing him on High Street we notice
his carefully shaved long sideburns, before our gaze
shifts to the nearby shop windows. He leaves
the supermarket as we arrive. A strange discomfort twists
our faces away. Opening night of Hairspray, in the art
deco neon glow of the movie theater, the crowd is thick
with bleached-blond beehive contestants, sculpted hair
rising like curvaceous mounds of soft ice cream. Elvis
appears with his blunt, heavy brows, the rough-carved
mouth, the deep-plowed wrinkles under his eternal
pompadour. In the competition for the biggest, tallest
hair, we cheer for rhinestone glasses, pedal pushers,
bobby socks. Later, when we chat and smile, trying
to hide the hunger of our loneliness, he slips
through the forest of lacquered hair, a silent king
passing among us, searching for his subjects, his
promised land, a place where he, too, will be recognized.
Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Garber. Reprinted from “True Affections: Poems From A Small Town,” Illuminated Sea Press, 2012, by permission of Elizabeth Garber. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, special consultant to the Maine poet laureate, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 228-8263. “Take Heart: Poems from Maine,” an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.