The Maven: A Poe-ish Poem for Halloween

2018-10-20 ttm pixabay poe cc0 pd writer-17565_640

I would say this post is back by popular demand, but I’d be lying. I’m posting it because it’s Halloween, and because I had fun writing it way back when, and because I want to.

For the reason I wrote it, read on.

*****

Why? Because–A friend, calling to confirm David and I would meet her and her husband the next day for the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, reported her house was being leveled for the second time in three years: “There are thirteen men under my house.”

I hooked up Edgar Allan Poe with the number thirteen and house with Usher and wrote the following verse.

Note: Tuck and Abby are my friends’ dogs.

Another note: Maven means expert. I looked it up to make sure.

THE MAVEN

To G. and M. in celebration
of their tenth trimester
of home improvement,
with  affection.
Forgive me for making
mirth of melancholy.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Señor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.'”

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up the quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.”

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair, and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

The Maven

jason-penney-armadillo-flickr-ccby2-0-2355685841_a91e48e937_z
“Texas Speed Bump AKA – Armadillo” by Jason Penney is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Once upon a time, a few days before Halloween, my friend ME called and said, “There are thirteen men under my house. They’re leveling it. For the second time in five years.” Then she invited David and me to go with her and her husband to see the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, on the University of Texas campus. The next day, I presented ME, via email, the following verse. This is its annual appearance on Telling the Truth.  Mr. Poe might be horrified, but since ME is my Muse, the result was bound to be quirky.

To G and ME,
in celebration of their tenth trimester of home improvement,
with gratitude and affection
Forgive me for making mirth of melancholy

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore,

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” then let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling ’round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Senor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.’”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

 img_2501-2

Eye of Tot and Toe of Tad…

Two witches stand over a boiling cauldron, one stirring, the other sampling the brew from a spoon.

And the stirrer says to the sipper, “I only use local children.”

If Shakespeare had been a locavore, he might have written this. Or not.

 

Eye of tot, and toe of tad,

Lambkin’s hair, and lip of lad,

Nipper’s nose, and small fry’s ear,

Moppet’s tooth, and rug rat’s tear,

But for charms of most unrest,–

Teenyboppers serve up best.

 

###

Thanks to author  Kaye George, for posting on Facebook the cartoon that inspired the flight of fancy resulting in my (questionable) homage to William Shakespeare and Macbeth. The cartoon is on her FB page.

Jeff Stahler is the cartoonist. To see more of his work, click on his name.

The Maven

Once upon a time, a few days before Halloween, my friend EM called and said, “There are thirteen men under my house. They’re leveling it. For the second time in five years.” She then asked whether David and I would go with her and her husband to see the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, on the University of Texas campus. The next day, I presented EM, via email, the following verse. Mr. Poe would probably be horrified, but since EM is my Muse, the end product is bound to be a bit quirky.

Lithograph of a nine-banded armadillo from the...
Lithograph of a nine-banded armadillo from the 1918 National Geographic Small Mammal series (Photo credit: Wikipedia) By Jerry Segraves (en:User:Jsegraves99) (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/photos/64102) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.

THE MAVEN

To G and EM, in celebration of their tenth trimester of home improvement, with gratitude and affection
Forgive me for making mirth of melancholy

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore,

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” then let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling ’round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Senor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.’”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

Detail of the statue of a raven on the grounds...
Detail of the statue of a raven on the grounds of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia) By Midnightdreary (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Reposted from Whiskertips.

Cow Swapping

Jersey cow in western United States. Whitney m...
Image via Wikipedia

Ever have one of those days when you have a zillion things to do, but you can’t get them done?

Because you start one thing, but then you think you should be doing another thing, so you start that, but you remember you need to do something else?

So you stop starting anything at all?

And the next day, you face the same tangle, except worse, because another zillion things have piled up on top of yesterday’s zillion, and now you’re even more overwhelmed and hopeless?

And then one day, the Mt. Everest of multi-zillions topples over and flattens you?

And you lie under there all squashed and miserable, wallowing in the knowledge that all you have to show for the past year is the unframed honorable mention certificate they sent you from the national Bejeweled contest, senior citizen division?

Neither have I.

Because I am not merely efficient. I am effective.

That’s Franklin-Covey language. I picked it up in the Franklin-Covey seminar where I learned how to use my Franklin planner. (Covey hadn’t joined up when I went to seminar.)

I learned to use not only that Franklin planner, but each succeeding Franklin planner: the black one with the zipper, the teal one with the zipper, the little red one with the clasp. There might have been others.

Two were later stolen. I left them in a tote bag on the front seat of my car, and while I slept, certain parties (“I know exactly who it was,” said the constable, “but we’ll never prove it.”) smashed a window and made off with the bag. They also got a can of asparagus and a couple of tins of sardines.

That was in August, the first day of in-service. I called the insurance company. I called the school and said I would be along as soon as the deputy had dusted for prints.

My prints, as it turned out. No others. But that made no difference. When juvenile offenders, both alleged and convicted, have completed their respective judicial processes, their fingerprint records are destroyed.

The deputy shared that information. Up to that point, I’d been calm and resigned, but on learning the fingerprint fact, I expressed righteous indignation. At length.

In my father’s day, the boys around town celebrated Halloween by turning over outhouses. People expected their outhouses to be turned over. The next day, they stood them up again.

My uncle once swapped Mr. Langley’s and Mr. Mercer’s milk cows. On November 1, Mr. Langley and Mercer went out with their milk buckets, found alien Jerseys, laughed, and walked them back to their rightful barns. No cows were harmed. They might not even have noticed they were waking up in the wrong bedrooms. Bovines aren’t famous for their powers of observation.

But that’s kid stuff. Breaking into a car and trying to hotwire it is not the same as swapping cows. (Franklin planners were just the consolation prize.) Nor is burglarizing a house several blocks north (one new television set) or stealing a cell phone and tools from an electrician’s van around the corner from me.

A childish prank shouldn’t cloud anyone’s future. But it is my considered opinion that the second time a juvenile ends up in court, his fingerprints should be kept on file. Just in case.

Oh, never mind.

After the dusting, I scraped glass out of the driver’s seat, draped it with towels (deputies do not clean up after themselves), and proceeded to commute. I met the superintendent coming out of the general convocation. He expressed amazement at my calm demeanor. I said if he wanted to see fireworks, I’d be glad to explain about fingerprints.

Well. This started as a lament over mental paralysis, and it’s ended up as a nostalgic tour through the good old days of cow swapping, plus a diatribe on the juvenile justice system.

Back to the present. There are books to be written, blogs to be read, comments to be replied to, software to be learned, and a sink to be blessed. Franklin-Covey would tell me to make a list, prioritize, and get busy. They would tell me to use a Franklin planner for listing and prioritizing, of course, but somewhere along the line I discovered a sticky note would suffice.

So, Dear Readers, I’m off to find a sticky-note and scale–effectively–Mt. Everest.


*

Image by Tlarson at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons