Waiting on the Corner for the Methadone Man

It would have been nice, that day in Memphis, if the only one,
Of all the people I hoped would break into a song
By the early Elvis Presley on my way to the site
Of the assassination of Martin Luther King
At the Lorraine Motel, had turned out to be,
Not the unreasonably cheerful tall white bellhop
On the carpeted steps of the Peabody Hotel,
The porch of which, said Faulkner, is the gateway to the South,
The grumpy but goateed countercultural cashier
At the funky-junk antique shop, where I rummaged through boxes
Of magazines, records, and prints, or the slick young guy
In the expensive blue suit and the silk crimson tie
Who looked like an escapee from an Ivy League school
Jaywalking toward the revolving front door
Of the tower on the corner with his briefcase and sunglasses—
No, not one of those models of true authenticity
But one of the bedraggled junkies in second-hand shoes
Waiting on the corner for the methadone man
To drive up in state in the sparkling white health-clinic van
And park at the curb of the shabby brick halfway house
In the Cooper Young district a mile or so from Midtown
By the big ungainly youth hostel that I was technically too old for;
Not one of the three young Danish women at the youth hostel
On a pilgrimage to Graceland, and not the tall blonde woman
Who showed me to my table and its blindingly white table-cloth
When I entered the dining room of the Peabody Hotel
To see what it was like to be a Confederate colonel,
But some haggard, recidivist, down-on-his-luck parolee,
Perpetually addicted and always in recovery,
Homeless and adrift since he’d gotten out of prison
Waiting on the corner for the methadone man,
Just waiting on the corner for the methadone, man,
And agreeing, just for the hell of it, to put some Otis Redding,
Some Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and James Brown
Into his renditions of “Jailhouse Rock,” “I’m All Shook Up,”
And “Blue Suede Shoes,” under the spell of the muse of multiplicity
Running the medley of impersonations together
With refrains for transitions, coupling the boxcars
Between the caboose and the locomotive of the mystery train,
And including a big blind smile from Little Stevie Wonder
Before ending with the chorus of “Don’t Be Cruel”
In mock-ecstatic emulation of a white dude who’d found
The groove of the blues that he and his people
Had been entrenched in for years, ever since they’d boarded
The slave ship in chains, long before Elvis made it look
As if it had been he alone who’d been paying their dues.


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