October 6, 2013

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry

A Conversation in Poetry

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 mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com 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.

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