The King is Dead

my mother’d come screamin’ from out the kitchen
her eyes a-blazin’ with the flames of tumbleweeds on fire
right down the stoop she’d run arms open ‘n’ outstretchin’ to me
her familiar smell of hairspray mixed with chillies ‘n’ sweat
television newsflashes flickerin’ like lightnin’ through the blinds

I’d been seventeen years old as I stood witness in that dusty yard
the sun a burnin’ ball balancin’ on the far mountain ridge
we’d lived in a crater that shucked moisture from beneath the skin
spend too much time out there an’ y’all brains would start boilin’
our trailer was a white billboard box advertisin’ our poverty

seemed the devil had gotten inside ‘n’ taken ahold of her mind
she shooked ‘n’ shaked like a rattler cornered in a ditch
slowly her hands ebbed away down the length of my dungarees
her blazin’ eyes dampenin’ as the heat within subsided
she lay shiverin’ on the ground at my bare Baptist boy’s feet

my birthday ice cream meltin’ over my hand in astonishment
she just lay there clutchin’ at her heart that had busted apart
Nevada was a cruel motherfucker whore she’d once said
an’ Vegas was its jumpsuited rhinestoned bedazzled pimp
but each day she’d driven into that city of music ‘n’ sin

she’d worked the International Hotel & Casino showrooms
guidin’ customers to their seats with her little pink plastic torch
an’ never did she miss a single Elvis show in seven years
that’s eight hundred ‘n’ thirty seven Elvis shows she’d gone done
no wonder she’d grown so attached to the King

I’d bent down and stroked her hair with the familiar smell
but somethin’ had already died behind her tumbleweed eyes
then the words blew from out across the darkenin’ desert sky
“Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?”

lyrics in italics by Lou Handman & Roy Turk


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