Ten Minutes and Fourteen Seconds with Edgar Allan Poe

Paul Brucker

Just because business is business
and should be done in business-like way,
because by accident I put my right foot into my left shoe,
because justice is a poor joke
and hope a promise yet to be broken,
is that sufficient reason
for the sun to depart,
absorbed by the stream
and the trunk that gave it birth,
is that sufficient reason
for darkness to fall,
and reclaim dominion over all?

That said, you must never lock in the dead
or keep them in the dark.
You must never leave the sick
until they are dead,
unable to anticipate or impair
the behavior of other dead
and soon to be dead.

For now, if you are like me, then
you are present, reporting for duty,
two-thirds dead, maybe three-fourths dead –
requiring no difference but the ability
to savor the difference,
no ability but to distinguish
one degree of truth from another,
to take a calm, inquisitive interest in everything,
to gaze reposefully, which only begets regret
as family secrets are revealed by servants
in candlelight insufficient
to illuminate you or thwart the shadow,
the slim-legged, shovel-footed shadow
that follows and fleeces all.

When the specific quantity
of your body
is greater than the water it displaces,
the body must settle at the bottom –
it makes small difference
whether or not you love the water
or if the water is fifteen feet or five thousand feet deep.

That said, let us celebrate the stream
which flows without song from Edmonton to Enfield,
unloved stream which then flows, as best it can,
from Columbia to North Cherry,
and grows less pure, less peaceful
until a body is found,
a body that strains with all its power,
all its resources,
to produce a cry,
a cry you clearly hear and understand,
a cry you choose not to respond to, nor acknowledge.

What’s peace but a set of experiences,
not something that has those experiences.

How I labor, how I toil.
How I brood, bottle and coil.
The iambic follows the Sapphic.
Slights of pen and deformities of language
sully the fair paper,
paper soon worth less
than the price paid for said paper.

How unblessed and unimportant I become, how impatient
with the efforts necessary to get the desired results
as relationships between thought and object,
subject and object, people and object,
become mere response, mere results,
the flow of blood,
not spontaneous expression or coherent view,
not a clear indication of meaning or purpose –
just a frightened head concealed from view.

I used to possess faith.
I used to believe I could manage
the distance between what is and what is desired,
what is longed for and what is long gone,
the minimum dose of a drug
necessary to produce the desired effect.

Now I see another mouse by the path,
lonely, unloved mouse,
denied a sliver of sun,
dying without sign of injury or disease
which makes no difference
because it must become
a few sticks, twigs and bones,
a little string, a little salt –
all that’s left to represent religion.

Maybe that’s why I’m always a step
or so behind the others, essentially left out,
unclear of purpose, of what to do or say
as the hands of menials
prepare another menial for the tomb.

Maybe that’s why I always try
to apply magic, wisdom or, failing that, terror
so the language of the world –
my world ¬– shall not perish,
though all language falls short,
all trying falls short:
an unfair exchange –
all that represents you
left under a roof full of holes,
insatiable holes that hold dominion over all.

I wear a dark mustache, scrupulously kept.
I express the symmetry of my person
with the ease and grace of my carriage,
with coat, gloves and boots
from better days
as the coffin reaches the lynch-gate
to be received in the churchyard.

I am among the people
you are among –
people to love and judge,
people to ring the bell
(nine strokes for a man, six for a woman, three for a child),
people who must show credentials
to be admitted by the agents in charge.
People who wonder, will they catch cold
if they leave their window open
(like F. Michael Vershoor waving a flag –
once divine, now deceased and despised).

Sick people who try their best to appear normal.
“That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing,
white as leprosy,
a nice color for you.”

I flash a hypocritical smile
and argue about trifles
in a high key with violent gestures.
I pound my fist on whatever’s near at hand,
and recite jokes to divert attention
and if that fails, forge tears.

That said, even under the best of conditions,
you must watch your mind,
must observe every alteration in countenance,
and pretend to be interested,
to give a shit.

“Ahem!” someone says.
To which you reply, “aha!”
as if, by golly, we’re wonderful people,
merely wonderful people, all of us, living
in a wonderful age.

See the self-centered shits with immense heads,
apparently holding many brains –
who think no good comes
unless it advances their purpose.
Where have their hands been, I wonder.
What have their hands been up to?
How can they help
with constitutional infirmities
akin to my own?

Little men eaten by the less little man,
a neighbor with teeth and claws
who despises me,
who will outlive me
unless I help him
assume the distinct look of repose
from strife and sorrow
and enter the state of absolute rest
that besets all objects,
never telling him why.

Because then, as well as now, there’s no difference
between friend or foe,
no distinguishing marks or features –
merely foes that ask no longer to be
considered foes.

The best way to separate bodies
is to add a third
and the only discourse possible
is inconsistent with your objective
because the man superior in intellect
makes enemies at every turn.

And so on until there’s no one left
to borrow from,
no one left
to give the benefit of doubt,
no one left to represent you.

I dread all –
marginal metaphysicians,
collywobbly clerks,
muttons dressed as lamb –
for none is so weak as me.

I dread the trumpet-tongued,
bedeviled in books,
with enough hardihood to share
his heart laid bare.

Maybe that’s why I inspire hard looks,
snide remarks,
indications I’ve been written off.

For now, will you be so good
as to send me a copy
of the history of Tacitus –
it’s a small volume,
also some soap.

In the quivering of a leaf,
a blade of grass,
a gleaming of dewdrop or hue,
walk with me,
feel the wind mingle with your breath.

Walk where the paths narrow,
and grow more intricate,
past the kindly, protective elms
and the wisp of willows
where a fox or hare hides
because it hides his scent
from the hounds.

Walk among shadows,
open your eyes in the dark,
decide which shadow to trust,
which to follow, which to fear.

Sky fretted ceiling adorned with gold.
Grass, short, springy, sweet-scented.
You, the most desirable one
in terms of look, smell and carriage,
possessed of every possible charm.

A well-shaped slender figure, noble head
so fine in proportion and expression,
with grace of step, rustle of robes
slivery-silken, with eyes of purple and pearl,
pervaded by a dim, religious light.

Nevertheless, your hands – too large,
not as beautifully formed,
nor as clean as I wish.

One touch to heal,
one to destroy.

An interesting spot
where your mouth used to be.

I’ll pay 12 dollars for the furniture,
two for each embrace.

But what does it matter
when all that represents you
will no longer be you?

For so long, I fought and swore
not to sell myself
for less than my asking price,
for less than I paid.

So what if I cannot handle
or deserve my misfortune?
So what if I pass from sipper to tippler,
from gulper to guzzler?

If you remove false judgment,
there is no other judgment.
Fine wine turns bad in an unopened bottle
and what you think
is more important that what you know.

Just because my shoes grow more shoddy,
too tight and out of style,
because no one hears me,
understands me or cares,
because death renders us all alike,
is that sufficient reason
for the intensity of the beam to vary
as the square of the two planes of transmission,
is that sufficient reason
for someone, perhaps you,
to laze or linger
over the ground
where my grave will be.

That said or as good as said,
blame not your feet, the earth
and the ensuing silence
for they must sound like feet, earth
and ensuing silence.

For now, do me a favor.
Breathe evenly and deeply into this moment.
Pretend there has never been a better moment.

Pretend now, at last, no one can harm us.
Now, at last, we cannot harm ourselves.



Paul Brucker lives in Mount Prospect, IL and has been published in many magazines, including somewhat recent appearances in The Barefoot Review, Crack the Spine, INK WELL, Poydras Review, Ray’s Road Review, SPECS Journal, The New Plains Journal, and the anthology Pagan’s Muse: Words of Ritual, Invocation and Inspiration.