Tag Archives: Elvis Presley

Heaven or Las Vegas

for Elvis Presley

Well, the coroner he figured
no one’s hand was on the trigger,
so there really wasn’t anyone to blame.
Call him a victim of his fame;
we know what killed him, just the same.

Never mind his fiercest critics
called him his own Chappaquidick.
We convinced him he was well enough to drive;
went along just for the ride:
we each committed regicide.

Whether it’s heaven or Las Vegas,
chances are you’ll never win;
playing the house is big gamble:
the odds are always pretty slim.
Pauper or king it doesn’t matter
in the end, which one you choose:
whether it’s heaven or Las Vegas,
either way you’re bound to lose.

A symbol of our generation:
vanity, and the frustration
of becoming bigger than what came before.
We stood screaming at the door,
always wanting from him more.

And we locked him in a palace,
made his microphone a chalice,
and his youth a trophy case for rock and roll.
Never mind the tears, the burden on his soul.
And we blamed him when he went out of control.

The choice was heaven or Las Vegas;
both are illusions based on sin;
playing the house is big gamble:
the odds are always pretty slim.
Pauper or king it doesn’t matter
in the end, which one you choose:
whether it’s heaven or Las Vegas,
either way you’re bound to lose.

Well, the coroner he figured
no one’s hand was on the trigger,
just another case of privilege gone too far:
one more supernova that we call a star
to avoid looking at who we really are.

13 FEB 2007

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Numerology

When I reach the age of Elvis crucified,
two years and small change from now,
I shall have been 33 years a missionary:
singing love songs to the deaf;
painting pictures for the blind;
copying manuscript parts to hand out
to a toneless, voiceless choir;
dancing for a stoic crowd
of cynical philosophers.

At that time, like Rimbaud,
I shall have been a serious poet
for seventeen years.

And like young Arthur, who cast aside
his disillusion and grandiose angst,
I shall endeavor to never preach
another sermon.

The prayer book from which I read,
the liturgy crafted lovingly from my own sweat,
whose matins I have sung at dawn,
its vespers whispered to the fickle fingers
of twilight,

I shall renounce.

My voice, that grows tired of its own echo
in the empty hall;
my fingers, that have worn down the ivory keys
of life’s tempered clavichord;
my mind, that seeks to claim some vain energy
by which to transform, incandescent,
the darkness —
these tools I will abandon.

In these score and thirteen years,
with the coin of Caesar I have been paid:
the pennies of disillusion,
the nickels of apathy,
the dimes of indifference;
and within the span of the next 700 days, or so,
I shall have accumulated
the postage
to return to sender
what talents the gods have sent me,
unsolicited.

Unless, of course, I win the lottery.

Because, as Hemingway observed,
the rich are different from the rest of us:
they have money.

19 AUG 2004

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In Memphis

In Memphis, where the gypsies come to hide their dead in earth
and I too seeking burial for past mistakes learned the blues
hoping to hide my sense of misdirection like Elvis
there along Madison Avenue two blocks from the Western Steakhouse

and fell in love only to marry for another reason
learning to obfuscate and blur the truth with cold beer
shooting the shit with Wonderful Wanda
and a myriad of characters that also knew the darkness

there at Green’s Lounge sitting in with aging bluesmen
also worried about the metal detector at the door
who knew the next generation wasn’t going to help them die
where I learned to like the sound of my own voice

regardless of the words it spoke
and all the endless hours of mindless drudge
that some smart words about politics or drug culture
could erase in the echo of a microphone

where I stopped doing Elvis impersonations
because they got to be too real.

18 AUG 2003

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