New Welsh Review
Elvis and the feelings
The day he died you looked as if
I was a precious copy of that song I used to
thunder in the shower – and you had dropped me.
You reassembled me with loving fingers.
We took the psychic shellac jigsaw
to a charity. ‘Suggest a price,’ they said. ‘A name.’
‘Feelings might be good,’ I said, ‘though people seem to
think they’re dead, and Elvis never waxed a tune called that,
but feelings have intrinsic value, don’t you think?’
‘The poor don’t need those’, they said.
‘Love made underneath the shower?’ I ventured.
‘The only shower the poor know is rain,’ they said.
Don’t Be Cruel seemed an apposite remark,
but the gap between them listening and an old-type
record spinning like a fallen bike-wheel
on a hill of memory, its users having wandered off
into a landscape, blowing horns – well, it seemed unbridgeable.
‘Although you need some noise,’ I said, ‘to find your way around.’
I wasn’t going to tell them Elvis had been seen in Hendon,
that you were driving on a hilltop road, smoking to the radio,
jiving to My Baby Left Me, finger-snapping where the road
had petered out to grass. I thought of Elvis in his suit of lights,
before he grew obese, jerking a reflexive leg to scare
the ducks up from an unexpected pool. I imagined
country. Sat there, stuck on red in Golders Green.
‘One Night with Jeanne Moreau, then? Watch me
snick the dashboard shift on that long-snout Citroen,
change down to climb a wild mountain pass, to third,
then second, hold it till the juddering beginning
of the crooning sound she makes that means enough…’
They looked at you. I thought they’d be impressed,
but I was wrong. ‘Fantômas …?’ They shook their heads.
‘Smultronstället?’ I might as well have been a foreigner.
‘That’s Alright, Mama!’ I shouted as I left.
They didn’t blink. As for you, my brain won’t you let go.
The car is climbing, Elvis in the grey hereafter’s singing:
If It’s Gonna Happen, It’s Gonna Happen Here.
Crouched beside you in the seat, I’m watching, though
where this whiteness came from I don’t know, or those flakes.
A voice like darkened thought. Heartbeat, snowflakes, heartbeat.
Now I’m driving, wondering where in hell you’ve got to.
There’s a deer in the mirror. I take the bend and it’s gone.
Fantômas: was the Lord of Terror, hero of a series of pre World War One French thrillers, revived (somewhat lamely) in the sixties, with Jean Marais as the master criminal.
Smultronstället: is the original Swedish title of Ingmar Bergman’s film ‘Wild Strawberries’.
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