By J. S. Absher
Mama said she just had to see Elvis
as he traveled back to Memphis by whistle-stop:
He’ll be something, she sighed, in his dress blues.
Daddy said, No, with a look in his eye,
so she didn’t. But he did, and brought back news:
Though Elvis never opened his mouth, the town
shouted and clapped and laughed and snapped their Brownies.
A reporter said we were cheering his army buddy
while Elvis was holed up in his private car
shooting craps. Now everyone, from the muddy
banks of the Holston to the Chilhowie Road,
for a moment longed to live bigger, even Daddy.
The men thought and tried to grow rich, took
Carnegie, won friends, invested as friends advised,
but lost their shirts and nerve. They tried to shuck
the littleness from the little, not knowing all
salvation comes of being kind and small.
The wives had cosmic Jesus and “Don’t be Cruel”
to play on their forty-fives and dance. They puffed
their Luckies and they kicked off their dime-store mules.
After Elvis left, Mama slept in. She dreamed
her thin voice soared over his aching growl.
As the stripes turned to feathers on his sleeve,
they flew above a steeple, singing duets—
like angels, Mama dreamed, and half-believed.