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Image by Mick Mitchell

Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

Ian McMillan


Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

Ian McMillan


Poem introduction

'Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley ' is about the fact that I thought that towards the end of his life, Ted Hughes became a bit of a star in that Elvis Presley way, and also I thought I've never seen Ted and Elvis in the same room, and perhaps they are the same person.

Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

I didn't die
that hot August night.
I faked it,

stuffed a barrage balloon
into a jump suit.
Left it slumped
on the bathroom floor.

Hitched a ride on a rig
rolling to New York. Climbed
into the rig, the driver said
'Hey, you're...'
'Yeah, The Big Bopper. I faked it,
never died in that 'plane crash.
Keep it under your lid.'
I tapped his hat with my porky fingers.
He nodded. We shared a big secret.

Laid low a while in New York.
Saw my funeral on TV in a midtown bar.
A woman wept on the next stool but one.

'He was everything to me. Everything.
I have a hank of his hair in my bathroom
and one of his shoelaces
taped to my shoulderblade.'

'He was a slob,' I said.
She looked at me like I was poison.
'He was too, too big,' I said.
'He wanted to be small, like
a little fish you might find in a little pond.'

I needed a new identity.
People were looking at me.
A guy on the subway asked me
if I was Richie Valens.

So I jumped a tramp steamer
heading for England.
Worked my passage as a cook,
In storms the eggs
slid off the skillet.

Made my way to London.
Saw a guy, big guy, guy with a briefcase.
Followed him down the alley,
I put my blade into his gut
and as the blood shot
I became him
like mamma used to say
the loaf became Jesus.

I am Elvis Presley.
I am Ted Hughes.

At my poetry readings I sneer and rock my hips
I stride the moors
in a white satin jump suit,
bloated as the full moon.

Bless my soul,
what's wrong with me?

At night I sit in my room
and I write, and the great bulbous me
slaps a huge shadow on the wall,

I am writing a poem
about the death of the Queen Mother
but it won't come right.

I look up. Outside a fox peers at me.
I sing softly to it,
strumming my guitar.

Soon, all the foxes
and the jaguars and the pigs
and the crows are gathering
outside my window, peering in.

I sing 'Wooden Heart', 'Blue Hawaii'.
There is the small applause
of paws and feathers.

I am Ted Hughes. I am Elvis Presley.
I am down at the end of a lonely street
and a jump suit rots in a southern coffin
as people pay their respects to a barrage balloon.

I sit here,
I can feel the evening shrinking me
smaller and smaller.
I have almost gone. Ted,
three inches long, perfect,
Elvis, Ted.


from Dad, the Donkey's on Fire: Poems from A Chin? (Carcanet, 1994), copyright © Ian McMillan 1994, used by permission of the author

Recordings

Ian McMillan Reading from his Poems. (The poems on this tracklist are not currently available to download. You can purchase the full CD via the link below.)

Tall in the Saddle

1The Soft White Pillowcase Boys

2Pushed Home when the Clouds were still Raw

3From the Section Dealing with the Loss of Grace

4The Tennis Ball Factory Poems

5The Meaning of Life

6SF Novel

7What Really Happened To The Buffalo

8For Me

9Why Are You Ringing

10Two Miners Pass in Opposite Directions at Daybreak

11The Texas Swing Boys' Dadaist Manifesto

12Resident

13Sessions

14Pushing, May 1984

15Coalpicking, Broomhill

16Visitors, Armthorpe August 1984

17Propp's Last Case

18Action

19From an Evening with the Model of "The Venus and the Shaving Brushes"

20Move

21The Photographer's Subject

22Just the Facts, Just the

23Simple Story

24Man in Hotel Room with Stolen Fork

25Against Realism

26Some Poetry Presses I Will Certainly Set Up In The Next Three Weeks

27Landing Practice

28The Prince of Wales visits Alnwick

29Cracking Icicles in Totley Tunnel

31Kake Yourself Comfortable 32Why We Need Libraries 33Pit Closure as Art 34Lilian's Poem 35Husband and Wife

36Tempest Avenue

37Deaths from Ice-Cream

38Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

39Visit 40Poem Occasioned by the High Incidence of Suicide amongst the Unemployed 41Song for Roof Building (Collected in South Yorkshire Light Industry Park, Barnsley) 42Moon River: Lives of the Great Comedians 43Henry's Skeleton, George's Leg 44Jesus Died from Eating Curtains 45Stone, I Presume 46Still Life Life 47Realism (Nothing Is Ever Finished) 48Dad, the Donkey's On Fire

Books by Ian McMillan