Lisa Creech Bledsoe

Elvis and Dashboard Hula Woman Do Something Worthwhile

There's something I've forgotten,
and when I remember it will all
be easy after that.

I've tried strong tea,
petitioned the dashboard hula girl
and trans Elvis, but nobody's talking—
although there's hip action
and they may be in love.

My hands are swords, my eyes
bullet holes, and I don't
feel lucky even though my heart
clanks and weeps like an onion.
I am bruised and prophetic and
useless. Don't listen. This will pass
once I burst into rain, take flight
or rust. I know. So much misrule &
disarray, and how could either of us
be expected to  decipher it
without keys or codes or canaries?
Gods, do they have those
any more, canaries?

Slow and steady wins the
evolutionary race, which is why
crocodiles haven't changed a bit
over the past hundred million years.
They're flawless. Some of them went on
to become birds, maybe because
Waffle House Elvis wanted
less fighting and biting.
Good a reason as any, right?
Plus free coffee refills all night,
if you don't mind the truckers
smoking the place up, and btw
stop saying hula girl, she's
hula woman, made of tanks
and organic coal, plus a shit-ton
of red moon power magic.
I recommend you not piss her off.

That may be what I was trying 
to remember. Did the coins
slide down into the machine yet?
Remember how we could tell by the sound
that they'd fallen right or would
drop into the change slot for try #2?
I loved that silvery ching,
and the whirr-thunk of a well-
delivered Coca-Cola. We tried
to break the planet for that.
Anyway, the machines eat bills
and plastic now and spit your
change straight into the landfill
where hungry kids pick it out and
eventually exchange it for scrap
aluminum. I may be getting
things backwards, but there's
truth in it some damn where.

I do know hula woman might be gay Elvis's
sugar daddy. In my day nobody said
"friends with benefits" although
it happened all the time. Lots of
fresh, dazzling words for sex & sex
and every color of the tidal wave
have been baked up and broken open
like a hot Cinnabon with extra—
yeah, you know what we call it.

All I'm trying for here is
a little compassion, less breakage.
It's hard, living in the junk heap
rat's nest of guns n cages we've
dragged together. Still, the grocery-store
candle Virgin Mary sneaks glances at
hula woman's generous breasts
and who doesn't want that kind of
brown-skin bounty spilling into
your hands? It's worth braving
crocodiles and more.


The Whale Talked to Me
"Maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old." —Modest Mouse

1. When things should happen

Now. That's my resolution.
No waiting, just swimming, now, in the ocean
with her ordinary sun & terrors.

2. All oceans have monsters

There are feral matters within.
Uncultivated wealds for roaring,
discovery, boredom. Each shadow
feels solid. Wilderness survival skills
are less valuable than generosity and
compassion. Or the other way around.

3. Things believed, if someone told you to believe

My mother's baseboards are perfectly clean.
Her closets too, and the ledges above them.
She finds security in knowing everything is
in a clean, correct place.

By the front door my father planted
weedy but serviceable asparagus. The monkey grass
is arguing with the chickweed, and all of it
obstructs the walkway to his Range Rover
with four flat tires, plus several
sheets of tin roofing.

4. Eavesdropping

The conversation is different between rivers
and fish, between bears and squirrels and berries.

Crows make entirely unique calls
when being recorded by scientists.

They say things you wouldn't say to your mother.

5. It all goes wonky

If you interrogate a wolf, be sure to bring
incentives. An item of intimate apparel,
some weed, maybe cigarettes or cell phones.

And before recording, remember:
every perspective carries its own baggage.
Expect damage & detours.

6. Extreme measures

Snowflake Bentley found it worked best
if he caught them on a velvet-covered tray.

Hardly breathing, he lifted each one
with a straw from his mother's broom,
put it under the microscope in the shed out back.

There were strings and pulleys for his
mittened hands. The shed was freezing,
but it was worth it for the photos.

He scraped away emulsion from each negative
with a penknife; it took four hours
every time. He also caught raindrops
in pans of his mother's wheat flour and
measured each one.

So many things can't be known or communicated.

7. Visited by a whale

Harry Brower was in a hospital near death
when a young bowhead whale carried him
a thousand kilometers north and showed him,
from an ice-blue underwater sea, the Iñupiat hunters
closing in on the calf’s mother.

Brower felt the harpoon, saw the hunters' faces,
knew where the meat was stored.
His own sons were in the umiak.

8. Nothing will be put right

My father collects things, often by piles.

The man at the flea market had perfectly serviceable
cargo shorts for a quarter apiece, so my father bought 
all thirty pairs. There are three pallets of wood
blocking the bottom of the stairs at the back of the house.
A truckload of broken concrete flows in waves
down the yard.

There's a handmade wooden boat in the garage
but you can't see it under his collections. I think
it's next to a drill press, which you also can't see.

Out there in the still-working refrigerator
we've stored all the feeding bags
and injectable vitamins.
We hook him up to them every night.

Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, American Writers Review, Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others. You can find her online at AppalachianGround.com.
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