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

Ian McMillan Downloads

1The Soft White Pillowcase Boys

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2Pushed Home when the Clouds were still Raw

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3From the Section Dealing with the Loss of Grace

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4The Tennis Ball Factory Poems

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5The Meaning of Life

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6SF Novel

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7What Really Happened To The Buffalo

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8For Me

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9Why Are You Ringing

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10Two Miners Pass in Opposite Directions at Daybreak

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11The Texas Swing Boys' Dadaist Manifesto

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12Resident

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13Sessions

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14Pushing, May 1984

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15Coalpicking, Broomhill

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16Visitors, Armthorpe August 1984

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17Propp's Last Case

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18Action

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

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20Move

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21The Photographer's Subject

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22Just the Facts, Just the

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23Simple Story

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24Man in Hotel Room with Stolen Fork

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25Against Realism

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

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27Landing Practice

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28The Prince of Wales visits Alnwick

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29Cracking Icicles in Totley Tunnel

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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