I spoke for an hour by phone tonight with Deb Powers, a freelance writer and noted slam poet in Worcester Massachusetts. She has the Poems and Poetry blog. You may want to click in, and poke around there, maybe put it into your blogroll like I have.
Our discussion turned to death experiences, not near death, but dying and coming back; a friend of hers, as I have, having been brought back to life. We also spoke of how taking care of the details in our lives, what is right before us, is important.
Deb then recalled another friend who speaks with ghosts, a man she says you would not think believes in them. She then related how she used to see a man at the foot of her own bed as a girl. One day, she saw a picture of that man, and asked who it was. It was her grandfather, who died when she was 11 months old. He died while he was watching Deb, just as he was told to do by her grandmother. Like many people, she has felt that someone watches over her.
After our phone call, the following poem came to mind, a poem from this past February’s shortlist of the Guardian’s Poetry Workshop. Two more follow, a famous one by Edgar Allen Poe, and another by the remarkable poet Lola Haskins.
by Rus Bowden
Walking the Dock
Soon into June twilight, you pacing
the dock, waiting for friends who may not
have embarked, your flip flops tapping quick
clicks off the lapping water, grace notes
to their echoes off the windowless
bait and tackle shop – you recall me,
yearn and look for me, in the deepened
blue of new nightfall nooks, and I go,
aura glowing, to you now knowing
it must be me shuddering through you,
for you knee jerk a squeal in panic
and run as from a swarm to your car.
With me blind blended to your back seat,
being careful to not make a peep
or fog out – you, low on smokes and still
creeped out, drive to the main road, hoping
that poking though the aisles of a store
and buying a couple packs will rid
you of your heebie jeebies, so you
park at the lit mart with its glass front,
browse, choose a newspaper, but ask for
just one pack, and when, without a word,
two get stacked on the counter, you know
someone heard you thinking as you drove.
You find a picnic table within
a pool of light, read and smoke – the fresh
flesh of the journalist behind each
phrase decaying as if a wick burns
down through the dated lines – you face me
next to you, where I will always be,
dead, the piercings in my skin growing,
here resurrected, however not
ascended, and you for this moment
know that latter vital step of grace
did not go as planned, such that we live
like ghosts, and only through each other.
by Edgar Allen Poe
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 tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow ;–vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore–
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door–
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”–here I opened wide the door;–
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore ?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore !”–
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore–
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;–
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore–
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore !”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning–little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door–
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered–not a feather then he fluttered–
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before–
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore–
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore–
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore !”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!–
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted–
On this home by Horror haunted–tell me truly, I implore–
Is there–is there balm in Gilead ?–tell me–tell me, I implore !”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil–prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us–by that God we both adore–
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting–
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!–quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted–nevermore!
Here is a link to another, at Poets.org, and by Lola Haskins: