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Joe Cottonwood

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of repairing homes by day, writing by night. He lives under (and at the mercy of) redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His most recent book is Random Saints.

I’d rather be a hound dog than a friend of Elvis

My bow-legged mother had rickets as a child.
Rickets, she told me, caused the bandy legs.
A long time ago I read a hateful biography of Elvis
which said his mother Gladys had rickets
because she was an ignorant hillbilly.
What an asshole thing to say.

Rickets can be caused by exclusive breastfeeding,
by lack of sunshine. My mother loved sunlight.
My grandma had ample bosom.
Don’t know if Gladys breast-fed Elvis
or if my mom breast-fed me. Mom died
when I was young, I never thought to ask.

I had a leg deformity called tibial torsion.
Elvis had a rocking pelvis.
Is breast milk destiny?
Mom could dance like a champ because,
she said, the legs. Nobody laughed at her.
In the beginning people laughed at Elvis,
how he danced, how he sang.

I was nine years old in 1956, a shirtless shortstop
when a stray beagle wandered onto the sandlot
and lay down between my bare feet
panting up at me like an old friend.
He was mine for a month.
One day he wandered off, made me cry.
Then Elvis sang Hound Dog and goddammit
a beagle is something, ain’t nothing.

Listen to your heart. You can’t believe everything
they say, they sing, not even Elvis.
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