Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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An Apology to Edgar Allan Poe

I once worked as a guide at what many believed
was your house in Virginia. I only regret

welcoming that family from Texas who asked
why anyone still reads poetry. I wanted

the job to occupy myself with something
literary and hoped I would overcome

my fear of public speaking, but that family laughed
at my stutter. I did attempt, as I heard you suggest,

to imagine leaden rods lodged in their necks
but my embrace of the macabre was unyielding,

so I fabricated a tale about an affluent
but queerly sired family I said also

tenanted the premises, a family I called
the Patrons. Because your fiscal temperament

was vague you tried to befriend them, but when
they caught you sprawled by the foxglove, sneezing,

your eyes inflamed, they rumored you an addict.
These Patrons, I claimed, inspired the murderous

schemes that left your sanity in question. What pains
me I did not say: how your fevered death, its dank

and rabid loneliness, is the least about you
to remember; that you were an ambitious man

who could not afford a fire; a kind husband,
beset with grief, who placed the cat atop his wife’s

feet when she first coughed blood at Fordham; and
yes, a disheveled loner who wore a cravat

for Christ’s sake, perhaps socks if you had them.
Remember how polite I remained after the mother

ended my story for me? She thought they could
continue their tour without me! Still I stayed

by the door, stroking that candelabra by which,
I claimed, you composed “The Raven.”

They were my last tour that day. Even the phone
in the gift shop was mum, the other guide gone.

I’m sorry, Mr. Poe. If she had just let me finish,
I would have killed them off in the end but

you knew these characters. Blind yet adamant.
I had to let them guide themselves until

their aimlessness wore them down, until
they couldn’t be sure there ever was a way out.

How I left them, then, among that dismal storage!
How else could they be made to feel?

What else would make them long to know?  

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