Election Day, 1849 [poem]


I heard the lyric quite some time ago:
I always thought John Lennon’s randomness
And wit were best when he took LSD.
He wrote that line where “Man, you should have seen
Them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.” Amid
The cuckoo cast of Krishnas, corn-flakes, nuns
And eggmen stood the Gothic poet. Ha!
That Beatle makes me snort! Until today
I never knew–and never thought–that John
Might have a second meaning. I’d never heard
The dying tale of Mister Poe. Of
Course, John may not have known the tale, himself.
Was he just making joyful nonsense of
A roly-poly sixties mind’s caprice?

So, what I want to ask the universe,
(At least for now, as these things change from time
To time) is why, until today, I’ve seen
And heard no other sketch or song of Poe
Except the ones where he’s a soggy drunk.

You could call this an ode. Or Ravings, fueled
With doggerel. I’ll let you cast your vote.
To you, this may just be a zealot’s tale
Concocted by the minds who always taste
Conspiracy in every word. A loony-pill,
Force-fed to folks who need their human gods
To stink a bit less when they defecate.

You’ll hear the experts talk about his death:
A syphilitic mind, tubercular
Impairment of his lungs, or something just
As simple: like a weakened, love-drunk soul.

Or was his soul a normal one, that found
Itself inebriated with intoxicating drinks?
A sot. I think that every schoolboy knows
That Poe enjoyed his drink, and that he died
Beside a gutter full of vomit: a cautionary tale,
To scare young men who dare to take up drink.

If Poe, by chance, was waylaid by a gang
Of thugs, and dragged and drugged and dressed
To pose as local citizens at polls
(They called it “cooping,” a hundred years ago).
So let’s, pretend for just a little while.
Does it make any difference to us?

I wonder if they recognized the man
By looks or speech? I doubt that any fool
Could be so foolish as to kidnap Poe.
Not if they knew his popularity.
It wouldn’t mean, of course, that brawlers,
Buffoons or crooks would find a lesser joy,
Distinguishing themselves, by torturing
A famous poet rather than a farmer.

They likely threw him to the mud (the rains
Were hard that year), and trussed him up, and forced
A handkerchief of ether to his face, and filled
his veins with laudanum, and head with booze.
They made him wear another’s clothes, you know;
And then they dragged the sorry costumed man
To every polling place in Baltimore;
And forced their masquerade. “Now vote! And vote!
And vote some more!”

Oh, what a silly thing,
To make a poet vote, not only once,
But more–a half-a-hundred times. Did they
Not realize that poets need no date
Or special paper ballots when they vote?

Poe was on his way to Philadelphia,
But halfway there, he stopped in Baltimore,
For what, God (and Poe) alone know why. What we,
However, know from history is this:
They found the West Point Virginian fop
In baggy trousers and a farmer’s straw
Hat, lying in the filth behind a pub.

Poe died alone in bed, within four days,
Without his choices and without his mind.
They say the preacher cousin managed five
Or fewer minutes at his coffinside,
and then his thoughts and tongue dried up in sync.
The rains were hard that year, and kin was, too.

Would it make any difference to you
If writers chose to vote, instead of drink,
Themselves into an early, early grave?
You see how I’ve become the Coopers’ fool?
I don’t think I’m alone, myself. I should
have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.

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