FAT ELVIS IN KAMIAS by LOURD ERNEST H. DE VEYRA
You will never see Graceland – The Bible
Fat Elvis drags his fat ass across dark Kamias Road,
Downed by Demerol, drunk with Emperador, and the fuming memory of fame past,
Humming a lost tune that goes something like
Snapping his fingers, taking long drags on his Hope,
Sniffing incessantly, nasal drip as if on dope,
But nope– Fat Elvis has got no cash for that.
Garbed in his gold lamé suit with ruffles
Like the wings of a famished vulture.
Fat Elvis walks past closed meat shops, beauty salons,
Massage parlors, sari-sari stores.
Then he swaggers into a cheap videoke bar with cheap beer and cheaper girls.
Fat Elvis barges through the door,
And arrogantly demands for Red Horse, tokwa’t baboy,
Chicharon bulaklak, and the microphone.
But the waitresses simply ignore him.
“That fat jerk is here again,”
One of them snorts, craning her neck for the bouncer.
Fat Elvis is infuriated. “Don’t you know me?”
Don’t you know who I am?!
I am Elvis! I live forever.
I live in the hearts, livers, and spleens
Of every man who has ever loved and shaken his booty,
Every man, from Graceland to Grace Park, Kalookan.”
The pride and anger of Fat Elvis
Now visible beneath the faint shower of red lights.
Pasty skin mottled like yesterday’s newspaper.
You don’t believe me?
He proceeds to croon Are You Lonesome Tonight
And forgets half of the lyrics, messes up the choruses.
Gets a score of 70 and is booed off the place,
Pelted by peanuts, pork ears, and chunks of ice.
Fat Elvis hits back at the hecklers
By flashing a dirty middle finger and hurling a chair.
And not too long before the sharp climax of the song
He’s chased outside by a bouncer wielding a balisong.
They say he prowls the all-night convenience stores
On the other side of the world, pumping gas
In desolated stations at night where the desert wind howls.
Or maybe singing folk songs in a flea-bitten beer house where drunken jeepney drivers demand
Eddie Peregrina and Tom Jones classics,
Or straddling the length of Aurora Boulevard peddling balut with a smooth baritone
Or he could be one of the shirtless mestizo pushers chain-smoking in dark alleyways of Project 3
Or a tricycle driver dozing off in the strange blue night waiting for passengers never to arrive,
Or a bank security guard stretched on a bench dreaming of afternoons tense with silence,
Or a cook in a 24-hour burger stand lost in the fumes of seared beef and hotdogs,
Or a disc jockey in a radio station spinning love songs for the loveless at 2 a.m.
Or a motel room attendant changing soiled sheets, pointing cars to their garages,
Or a pimp along Quezon Avenue shoving girls into taxicab windows
Or maybe a drag queen with wild orange wigs and denim shorts,
Spreading fearful boa feathers in the air.
For Fat Elvis had never suffered
For Fat Elvis had never suffered for his art–
For Fat Elvis never believed that rock and roll can save the world,
Only that rock and roll will destroy you soon,
That rock and roll will come crashing into your life–
A stranger who becomes your friend at the first instance
A buddy slapping your back
And uncapping a beer for you, rolling a joint for you,
Chopping up thin cocaine lines across the glass table for you,
The frightful fastness of this friendship
Fits a rollicking three-bar tune
Riding on clanging drums and gritty guitars,
Fuelled by speed and cheeseburgers and whiskey
And the promise of movement through electric air,
Charged by ten thousand squealing women,
Hysteria breaking out when your hip gyrates,
Teary teens catatonic and fainting,
Tumult from the swinging pelvis,
This is rock and roll–this is rock and roll.
Your torch songs scorch countries and continents,
They melt radios and hearts
And they cross oceans and lives
Then come rushing back to your door
Like a swinging wrecking ball.
Fat Elvis perhaps floating in the big black bardo void of now,
The busy, tragic boulevard of Kamias, Omnipotent Fat Elvis–
Those electric sideburns, the big aviator glasses,
The karate moves, Olympic god muscle-stretching,
Sweat on forehead seething golden under the Las Vegas lights
Leather pants, rhinestone Captain Marvel jumpsuit,
Fat Elvis could be wearing anything, in fact,
And Fat Elvis could be anywhere,
Fat Elvis was once hungry,
Hungry and thin, then he became the king of the world,
Then fat, as all kings become,
And still believed he was king
Even though he was fat, and soon forgotten,
And when he died,
The Pistols sneezed “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”
They didn’t know he was still alive.
He lives in your heart, your liver–
Fat Elvis, Dead Elvis, Saint Elvis,
President Elvis, Sergeant Elvis,
Professor Elvis, Father Elvis,
Kuya Elvis, Tito Elvis, Mang Elvis,
Architect Elvis, Senior Police Inspector Elvis,
Maestro Elvis, DJ Elvis, MC Elvis, Boss Elvis
Holy Immaculate Infinite Almighty Fat Elvis pray for us
Save us from our frightful selves,
The tedium of ourselves,
Fat Elvis– those overpaid, overfed, incandescently bloated
Oafs singing on Sunday noontime shows,
Fat Elvis Poor Elvis Shabby Elvis
Hungry Elvis Desperate Elvis Depressed Elvis
And all the world’s a stage groaning under the weight of ten thousand Fat Elvis impersonators
And we watch and watch and we laugh and clap
And become Fat Elvises ourselves
Slurping up the pig-slop of everyday reality
Fat Elvis, icon, idol, king– THE KING!
King of the Dead and the Swollen
King of Sorrows, King of Memory,
King of Heroin Apostles,
King of Undeserving Martyrs,
King of Profuse Lager and Whiskey
King of All Saints
Singular Vessel of Idiotic Devotion
Tower of Untruth
High-rise of Triglyceride
Chalice of Cholesterol
Ark of Lard
Archangel of Adipose
Soldier of Sodium
Crusader of Sugar
Sultan of Starch
Tub of Butter
Curse of David
Lord of Lipids
Swine of Jesus
Lamb of God
Seething in an open charcoal pit, slathered in garlic and mint sauce with extra rice
Fried peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, barbecue, mash potatoes, peas, apple pie and meatloaf,
All the nuclear calories in the planet
All arteries silting up like the Ongpin estero
Slugging across the intersection of Kalayaan and Kamias,
Fat Elvis, swarthy, saturnine, tries to hail a cab
And they just kept zipping by,
He might have looked too weird–
Too visibly drunk, or just too fat
Dammit–can he fit into a car?
Face round like a moon?
Can he fit into a coffin?
Belly like a hot air balloon?
It had been a life too high, too soon, too fast
No Colonel Parker to pick him up or stab him in the back.
Fat Elvis, effete, but still moving with earthly effrontery
Fifty thousand fans can’t be wrong! Fifty thousand fans can’t be wrong!
Fifty thousand ghosts, spectral echoes,
Waves of screams by packed stadiums long gone to ashes,
Swarms of kisses from hyperventilating matrons long gone to ashes
Tomorrow is a long time–tomorrow is a long time
Fat Elvis– thunder and lightning
Fat Elvis– stinky longganisa burp and fart
Fat Elvis– nobody sends text messages on his cellphone,
Missing the ‘Return to Sender’ ring tone,
Fat Elvis–can’t send no text messages ‘cause he’s ran out of credits a long, long time ago
Fat Elvis– lonely and fat
Fat Elvis– abscess in the history of mankind
Fat Elvis– once beautiful now moving with the grace of oven grease
Fat Elvis– hustling with P50-a-trim beauticians, demanding for a free rebond,
Fat Elvis– of sequined sleeves reeking of moldy leather and tricycle smoke
Fat Elvis– arguing with pedicab drivers over the fare from Sikatuna to Aurora,
Fat Elvis– scandalously demanding free plates of rice from the cornerstore carinderia,
to go with desperate half-orders of pinapaitan and isaw
An act of plain hubris, thinking the place privileged,
To be able to announce:
“Fat Elvis Presley Ate Here”
A place that is both plain and strange at the same time.
But waiters know, the way the whole world knows:
He ain’t nothing but a hound dog.
Every dog has its day.
Fat Elvis was once famous and rich.
Every dog is a son of a bitch.
# # #
This poem originally appeared in Insectissimo! (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011). Copyright © 2011 Lourd Ernest H. de Veyra. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
[Header image: ‘Elvis’ by Kevin Dooley @Flickr. Unmodified. Used under this CC licence.]