Poe walked with me along the Hudson,
the sullen edge of the river now braced with concrete,
losing the battle between land and sea.
“We had no cars,” Poe muttered. “We did have horse shit, however. Me, I’ll sustain the exhaust fumes. You run no risk of falling into them.”
Poe looked exactly as expected.
Poe looked well. Poe seemed crabby, chronically disgruntled.
He wore a dark suit and a tie. His hat tilted, wavy hair flowing under it. His mustache was perfect, reminding me of Warren Zevon.
My Ride’s Here...
“I don’t get that at all,” Poe complained. “We never had anything loud as that. I avoid it.”
This was a fair, cool spring day, the trees just beginning to produce buds, buds to turn to leaves to turn red, then brown, then fall...
“You know,” he argued, “I never wrote that dream within a dream verse. As God is my witness, I didn’t even understand it until I died. Even then, not right away.”
I read that. Somewhere.
“Hmm. It is, you know,” he reflected.
“A dream within a dream, all that, many dreams balled up within many more dreams. You’ll understand...”
I think I already do.
“Well, I’d have too, if I lived long as long as you,” Poe huffed. “I never grew old enough to get bald or wise.”
After a while, we climbed the steep bank and crossed Spitting Devil into the Bronx.
“This is where Ginny died,” he recalled, removing his hat. “Truth be told, her death is scattered all the way from here to Baltimore. She was a long time going. I believe she had mixed feelings about it.”
Chilling and killing my beautiful Annabel Lee...
“I know. I know. Too sentimental, but the line just came to me and people seemed to like it. A man has to earn a living,” Poe sniffed.
We walked east into the valley of the Bronx, and he kept remarking on the smells and not in a favorable way. I wanted to ask him about Reynolds and the mystery over what killed him. Was it alcohol or rabies or something else..?
“I died from life, just like everybody else,” he remarked, as if it should be obvious. “I was full of life and, so, grew equally full of death. Let’s leave the details a mystery. I rather enjoy they’re still talking about me. Everybody forgot the sober poets.” He turned to me. “Are you writing about his, about our little hike?”
Yes. I write about everything. I’m glad to have the opportunity and wish to share it.
“Poem or prose?”
“Poem and prose? Your invention?”
Probably not, but like you, in my own way, in my style...
“No rhymes, okay?”
“No rhymes,” Poe insisted. “I grew sick of them. It drove me to prose.”
Before I digested that, he resumed, editing:
“It might as well have been booze that killed me. It might’ve been something else, but if so, it was something we didn’t know at the time. It’s unfair to go backward with knowledge. It steals from the present, in its way. It’s a violation.”
And while I tried absorbing that–
“Yes, I drank and drank and drank. I drank even more after Virginia died. I tried so hard to keep her with me. Eventually, she wanted to go, and I had to let her. It was so painful. Painful for both of us.”
“She’s here,” he said, smiling for the first time.
“Here. Don’t you know, that’s why I drank? I spent a lifetime trying to erode the barrier. It took a lot of effort, and nothing really worked. I had to die to get through. One more thing...”
What? I asked, expecting something deeper, another perplexing wisdom from the ages.
“Don’t believe anything that bastard Griswald said. We were not friends. He did not know me.”
Griswald didn’t know you?
“Griswald, that son of a bitch, and nobody else either. Never forget it. I won’t.”
Poe tucked his chin firmly into his neck. He looked across the Bronx.
“I need to go now,” he offered. “The time comes...”
I enjoyed the walk a little longer, watching Poe slowly dissolve into some other dimension, knowing he’d never return.
Finally, with only the slightest presence remaining, he looked at me and nodded. We were at a subway station.
“Goodbye,” he said and doffed his cap. “I enjoyed your conversation. I appreciate your bringing me back... one last walk with Ginny along the river... Alas, everything ends.”