Summer 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 2


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Essays   

Antonia Clark


Ravenous, In Which Poe's Fine-Feathered Friend Tells All

In the first draft, he had me saying, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”
“It’ll never work, Eddie,” I told him. “You can’t use the same word seven times in a row.” Of course, he later did exactly that, for no other reason than to prove me wrong. Oh, those tintinnabulating bells, bells, bells— But that’s another story.
I found him around midnight, brooding and bleary-eyed, poring over some musty old tome under poor light, the dim glow of which had attracted my attention. He must have dozed off because I had to tap and rap repeatedly, first on the door, then on the window, before he came to and let me in.
No sooner was I inside and comfortably perched atop that famous bust of Pallas, than he started trying to shoo me out. “Not until you feed me,” I said. Good God, it was December, colder than a witch’s nose, and not a morsel, dead or alive, to be found on the streets of New York. I was famished.
The place was a dump, a drafty old house with worn carpets and stained walls. That violet velvet cushion he’s so fond of was a little worse for wear, too. But I was better off inside than flapping around Manhattan in sub-zero weather.
Oh, he was morose, he was morbid! I have never seen a more sorrowful, woebegone excuse for a human being than he was that night. He moped about his chamber, sniveling and whining because he didn’t know what to write about. He was desperate for a subject, any subject.
“Eddie, get a grip,” I told him. I’d said the same thing to Dickens, of course, and he’d taken me literally. Surely, you recall Grip, Barnaby Rudge's pet raven, and how Rudge contemplated the bird’s shadow cast across the floor of his prison cell. Poor Eddie has been much maligned for not properly acknowledging his sources. In this case, it wasn’t his fault, for I inspired both of them. But I digress.
Eddie was hungry—so that made two of us. There was still in him the specter of his former self, the poor, abandoned love-lorn boy, the penniless orphan. This must have made his present circumstances all the more terrifying, for indeed, he was again im-poverished, totally broke, living from hand to mouth, running from landlords, borrowing from friends. And yes, he’d been a gambler, a drunk. But what a soul that man had! Though often despondent, at other times he was given to frenzied fantasies, ecstatic visions, rapturous dreams. He wanted to fly, to soar!
As I said, he was hungry, in a most literal way. But beyond that, Eddie was hungry for fame and his appetite was enormous. He was starved for attention, renown, honor. He was greedy for glory. Voracious, rapacious, arrogant, and vain! I liked him.
So I said I would help—whether he liked it or not. Eddie wanted to compose the best poem ever written. He did have a way with words, a kind of gaudy grandeur, though he wrote his share of drivel as well—not, I might add, always limited to first drafts. And he had an ear for rhythm and rhyme—a little heavy-handed for my taste, but no matter.
“Why not write about me,” I suggested. I had in mind something along the lines of Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale,” but dedicated to me—a proposition Eddie at first found ridiculous. “A bird-brained notion,” he pronounced it, if memory serves.
“Look, Eddie,” I said. “It’s staring you in the face. Tell about how weary and dreary you were before I arrived. Tell how great I look sitting up here on this chipped old bust of yours. You know, it could provide a nice contrast—Pallas, signifying intellectual wisdom and me, intuitive truth. It just might work. You could drag in that woman you wrote about before—what was her name again, Eleanor, Lenora? But not too lugubrious, Eddie, and easy on the melodrama. Let’s see, you still need a good refrain—”
“You talk too much,” Eddie said. Can you beat that?
So it was a collaborative work—not that I’ve ever gotten any of the credit. The rest is history, as they say. Thanks to me, Eddie produced the very poem that, overnight, reversed his fortunes—both financial and literary—gaining him all the fame and notoriety he’d craved for so long.
I gained an enduring reputation as well, though not quite what I had envisioned. Monodic bird, the critics have said of me. Monodic, indeed! It irks me still that, after all I did for him, Eddie reported but a single word of my extensive repertoire. It’s hardly a believable account. Anyone who has even passing familiarity with avian anatomy can tell you that I and my brethren are notable among birds for the size of our brains and our unusual mental abilities—even for our sense of humor.
That’s why, when Eddie asked me if I wanted to help him with his next piece, I said, “No way, nothing doing Eddie, not unless you cite me as a co-author. Never again. Nevermore.”


© Antonia Clark



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Essays   

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