Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy
Listens to Louis Armstrong
was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human
Shields released the album Somebody's Hometown in 2015 and the EP Défense de
in 2016.

The King Assassinates the President

Elvis has left the Texas Book Depository,
but fifty million fans cannot be wrong.
He's gone to make a movie that will tell his story,
but no one wants to listen to that song.

How quickly did he try to go from there to here?
He reappeared down on the second floor.
A cowboy at the closing of the New Frontier,
he glimpsed himself behind a stairway door.

He sang his surreal cinematic holiday,
shot down the country's castle in the air.
A limousine convertible exposed his prey,
the gun recoiled with his muttered prayer.

The Cadillac was pink, the driver was no clown.
He left the highway for an unmarked track.
What color was his jacket? If someone called it brown,
then someone else was sure to call it black.

Now everyone might wonder, did he act alone?
How did he keep from being recognized?
He's just a devil in disguise, his cover blown.
And when they catch him, he won't act surprised.

His doubles' doubles walked across the busy street
to reconstruct the scene in one more take.
The pretender's confidence cannot be beat
because you can't be sure that he is fake.

He'll claim he's just a patsy, someone to dance the waltz,
who fished but never hunted as a boy,
a dreamer lost in Captain Marvel comic schmaltz,
a microphone or pistol as his toy.

He'd seize his chance to spin around and draw a gun
or hold his rifle, step up to the sill.
It only takes three takes before he says he's done
and sells his soul to some old carny shill.

Horatio Alger interrupts himself, takes off
his glasses, turns away, takes up his pitch.
Outside the door, the valet hears a coded cough,
a stuttered glossolalic bait and switch.

He cannot spin his tale into a final form
and plays a different movie every time
that day is mentioned. Politely fulfilling every norm,
he laughs when he forgets a simple rhyme.

The book about himself filled him with doubt
that there was more to do to make the news.
He left his later authors wondering about
the endless rubble of the trail of clues.

He knew what he could measure, but not what he could see;
the numbers took him further than his eyes.
A doubled gunslinger was someone else to be,
but both the mugshot photos are just lies.

And here's a photograph of medication
he took to stay awake and then to sleep.
Was it confusion or hallucination
that made him stumble and begin to weep?

He lived his daydream of supremacy,
his nightmare of a private movie show.
His sneer could mask sincere conformity
until the trigger let the bullets go.

The story should say more, for once there was a spot
where nobody appeared out of the blue.
A camera rolled; a shot led to another shot;
the motorcade went speeding out of view.

The future's here; for seven seconds, everyone
can be a part of other people's yarns.
They are the audience that sees what they have done
in fun-house mirrors, not in burning barns.

In city after city, he hides up in the lights;
suspicious minds all wonder what he's done.
The motels, billboards, stations, prisons, farms, and sights
have moments in the focus of his gun.

The roadhouse stage is empty, and the lights are dark.
Outside the town, the rodeo is closed.
Nobody's singing to himself down by the park.
The witnesses have still not been deposed.

They'll replace what they remember with a story
and live their lives by words heard in a song.
Elvis has left the Texas Book Depository,
and fifty million fans cannot be wrong.


You've still got a band around your wrist
but lost your marbles and your pocket knife.
The prostitutes and scientologists
are telling you it's time to change your life.

Ramona's turned into a talking head;
Horatio's pulling down the window shade.
Diego's painting banners in a shed;
it's snowing on the marching band's parade.

What is your personal Rosetta stone?
An exhibition on Neanderthals?
Pedestrians are strolling through the zone
and lingering beside the market stalls.

A summer hit's the touchstone of your creed,
heard on the bus with your portfolios.
Your satisfaction's never guaranteed,
but what have you been paid not to disclose?

Who's the puppet? Who's the puppeteer?
It's all revealed by ultraviolet light.
You'll never cry a melancholy tear:
you're looking for the threat of Friday night.

The scientologists and prostitutes
are telling you it's time to change your life.
So find your marbles, try on cowboy boots,
and then forget about your pocket knife.


The plane ascended, banking over Boston Bay.
I looked down through the hazy plastic window, sighed
to see them break the waves to breathe,
but then I knew they were not whales but islands.

I did not feel seawind upon my face,
sitting in my seat up in the sky,
as far from breaking waves and empty ocean
as if there were no whales but islands.

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