The Day After Elvis Died

by Jon Tribble

Bused home from two-a-days,
junior high players in half-shirts
and padless football pants howling
like hound dogs, swaying back
and forth in the aisle with a tick

of horny release stuttering from
hips snaking in slow circles, one
leg posted down while the other
spasmed with grand mal energy,
she kept staring at us in her wide

security mirror, tugging and chewing
back anger and a loose strand
of her off-yellow hair, and when
she swung us sharply toward
an off-ramp of the Wilbur Mills

Freeway—an unscheduled turn
in our course toward home—lurched
to an air-braked shudder and stop
on the right shoulder, she stood,
said we could all go straight to hell,

and walked off leaving the door
almost as wide open as our eyes
and hangdog mouths. The keys
dangled in the ignition, but none
of us dared start the bus, and a few

guys grabbed their cleats, trudged
down the steps, but the rest of us
were too salt-drained, tired, and
sure she had to come back, couldn’t
abandon us and this job in such

a gesture of misplaced loyalty.
Half an hour later, someone said
she lived nearby, so with keys
in hand we trooped over to her little
blue house behind War Memorial

Golf Course. Two of the seniors
approached the door while most
of us settled in the dusty yard or
milled about stretching sore legs
or hoisting tote bags in mock

power lifts, grunting as if locked
under the weights back in the gym.
After polite, then firm, then loud
knocking, she answered out a screen
window, saying clearly she’d shoot

any one of us bastards still on her
property in thirty seconds. Like
some frantic free-for-all drill we
scattered, knocking one another
spinning and down and back up

and over the chainlink fence, contact
fiercer than we would ever make
on the playing field that August
where potbellied coaches drained
our fury under the Arkansas sun.

JON TRIBBLE was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. His poems have appeared in the anthologies The Jazz Poetry Anthology, Surreal South, and Two Weeks, and in Crazyhorse, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Quarterly West. He teaches at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he is the managing editor of Crab Orchard Review and the series editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry published by SIU Press.