Best New Zealand Poems 2001


James Brown



I was just sitting there, wandering lonely as a cloud, when
— honest to heaven — looking out of the window
I saw Elvis. I know I know, but honest to heaven
it was him — or my name’s not James Brown.
There he was, just walking across the quad in no particular hurry,

briefcase under one arm, an airy spring to his gait,
his five inch DA glistening in the breeze.
But right off you could tell he was going places;
he didn’t look left or right, just ahead where he was walking.
Mid-period Elvis. His leather jacket passed within five feet of me.

And I wasn’t alone, plenty of students saw him too. An older one —
probably a third year — went up and shook him by the hand.
Young women clustered in groups, glancing and whispering.
A couple of likely lads snapped their fingers. There was a palpable
happiness, for once you’ve seen Elvis you are never alone.

He was whistling softly. Not a curl, more an expression
of frankness was pursed on his lips as he passed (I noticed
the first signs of comfort eating just starting to grace his jowls).
I couldn’t quite make out the tune, but now I hear it as
the fadeout to ‘(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding.

It was autumn, the odd lost leaf left dallying in his wake
as he turned the corner by the silver birch trees.


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