Thursday, August 16, 2007

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, I thought I'd share this poem, which I wrote at least 12 years ago. Francine, wherever you are, this is for you.

Freaking Out

"My neighbor freaks out
over Elvis," I said,
the first time I talked
on the phone with a boy
(Timmy Murakami, who
just moved across town,
who stood at the end
of the rink to watch
me skate after school,
Timmy, who wrote me a
"I like you and I hope
you like me" letter,
a plastic locket tucked
in the corner of the wide-
lined paper.)

"My neighbor freaks out
over Elvis." I don't
know how the subject
came up, but those words
rang in my nine year old mind
long after the call. Those words
made me cool, worthy
of being liked by a boy.
I never talked like that--
"freaks out"--and the words
sounded grown up and funky
in my mouth.

The neighbor was Francine,
the landlord's wife.
Their living room sat
on the other side
of my parents' bedroom.
The wall vibrated
with "Jailhouse Rock," "Hound
Dog," over and over again, daily,
loud, and we couldn't call
to complain to the landlord
because it was the landlord
making the noise in the first place.

My sister and I played, loud,
in the long, common, hallway,
to cover up that music in our ears.
We’d spin each other into statues,
run the fifty yard dash, somersault rug
burns into our knees, until Francine
barreled out of Apartment 5-C,
her Elvis iron-on cracked,
strained across her chest.
"Keep it down, will ya?"
she'd bark at us,
and we'd spill back into 5-B,
"Love Me Tender"
thumping through the walls.

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