Elvis Presley Retires

The patrolman’s granite jaw cracks open 
Into the wide fissure of a gap-toothed grin, 
His mind’s tape rewinding twenty summers
To a cool vinyl car seat, pale chafed thighs 
Trembling against his hips to the bump 
And grind of wire and wood and drum-skin 
Buzzing from the Chevy’s dashboard radio 
(My song, back when my blood was clean): 
A night dimmed to an ember, hidden 
Deep under the cold ash of memory. 
I still have the gift, Lord thank you 
For my hands calloused beneath the fat, 
And my voice’s silky glide beneath the rasp,
Telling him, Thank you very much, as I step 
From the rear of the parked ambulance 
Into the din of a different crowd: 
A church choir of crickets layered 
Atop a deep hum of highway traffic, 
Distant, and broken by yelping dogs 
(Hound dogs) and the laughter and shouts 
Of people—vessels of blood and bone 
Enclosing sadness, like a black pearl—
And I feel the joy of the old days, singing 
Into the roaring crest of the crowd-sea. 
I adjust my wide-brimmed hat, and tip it 
To the cops and ambulance driver, 
Trusting not in my words but the money 
To keep them quiet about this Lazarus 
Gliding into the symphonic night, 
Stacks of hundreds in a canvas bag, 
A swagger in those heavy, aging hips.

NICK KOLAKOWSKI is an editor and writer based in New York City. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Washington Post, Carrier Pigeon, The Evergreen Review, Crack the Spine, and a handful of other publications. 
The Adirondack Review