The fall of the king

American Life in Poetry

There are so many delightful poems by Faith Shearin that it can be difficult to select just one to show you. This one is from her sixth book, “Darwin’s Daughter,” published in 2017 by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. Faith Shearin lives in West Virginia.

Blue Elvis

It was August 1977 when Elvis Presley fell

face down on his Graceland bathroom floor;

by the time paramedics arrived, he was


cold and blue. I knew this because I was with

my grandmother, Belle, who called her sister,

Geraldine, who came over at once so we


could watch the news. My grandmother knew

Elvis liked peanut butter on white bread

with American cheese, eaten in his jungle room


which had Tiki chairs, fur lampshades,

a waterfall. Other neighbors arrived:

women in short skirts, women who


brought with them more of the food Elvis

loved: coconut cakes, fried chicken, bacon.

Elvis was dead, and summer had been so


hot the things we touched burned our hands:

handles of garden hoses, car doors,

the metal swing set my grandfather


built for me on the back lawn. I listened

to the sound of southern women’s voices

expressing disbelief; they said I swan


and I pictured something rippling

and solitary; they said Well, shut my mouth and

I saw blue Elvis, falling.