Only This And Nothing More (Bald Punk meets the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe)
(Edgar Allan Poe – 1809-1849)
I was driving on the Grand Concourse when I saw Edgar Allan Poe’s ghostly apparition on the sidewalk. I pulled over and watched him disappear just as he came to a white-shingled cottage. The cottage seemed so out of time and place, I fully expected it also to vanish into thin air. . .
I hardly had one foot out the car door, when Benny, “the cigar store Indian” says to me, “You shouldn’t bother him.”
“I’m okay with supernatural crap,” I said, having sworn off any concern for ghosts, angels, and demons a mere half-hour before when the five of us were out by Calvary Cemetery in Queens. But Poe was too iconic, too delectable. He was “the window” and I had to look.
On a triangular lot sat Poe Cottage. It was surrounded by a patchy lawn and a six-foot high, wrought iron fence. The moment I laid eyes on the wee home, it appealed to me much in the same way as a brilliant painting might in a museum. That is to say, it “reached out” to me. Since the home sat beside the multi-lane Grand Concourse and pre-war apartment buildings, it took a full moment to believe that the cottage was real.
(Photos by Bald Punk – Poe Cottage, Bronx)
I went to the fence and pushed my face through the bars. I then proceeded to get a little wacky, but I felt I was allowed to because it was Edgar Allen Poe.
The sight of his specter had whipped up my senses. I was super excited.
I backed away from the fence and grooved a little, shuffling and shimming my hips, while hammering my fisted-hands close together.
In my eyes, Edgar is in a special class of writers. He sits with the likes of Henry Miller and Oscar Wilde. There is no distinguishing between the writer and the work. Years ago I had felt the same way about Anne Rice, but that was before I read a TV Guide interview with her and learned she was basically a normal person.
I yanked at the lock on the fence. “We have to go inside,” I said.
“No, the man wants his silence,” Benny said, who is slight of build, has meek mannerisms though manages to have a willful personality. “He wants his peace. He deserves it.”
“Ohhhh, I saw curtains move!” I said, crashing back into the fence. I stretched my arm out, and caught myself in time to make a sane gesture, instead of wagging my hand like a lunatic.
Looking back all I can say is thank god the gate was locked. I think I would have tackled poor Edgar the moment he came out the door, if it were possible, that is.
“I could help him paint the house!” I cried, unable to think clearly. There was a lot of other crazy-crazy stuff going through my skull that no-way no-how am I telling anyone about it. Though one thing that had hit me was I wanted to write a musical based on Edgar Allan Poe’s life called Poe. Sounds cool, right? The music would be rock though some songs would have harpsichord and pipe organs in them. I figured I could channel J. S. Bach for help.
My lady friend(LF) voiced concern for my behavior. Benny came up behind me, and put a hand on the small of my back. “He writes no more,” the old homeless man said.
“That’s not true,” I said, backing away from the fence.
The pizza and Chinese delivery(aka num and nuts) were looking at me like they had a hard time focusing. It’s the way I invariably look at them.
“This place needs work” I said. “Its needs to be scrapped, sanded, and painted. We can help him fix it up.”
Num and nuts nodded.
“He actually said he writes hardly a verse anymore,” Benny said with an air of authority.
“How do you know all this?” I asked.
Benny smiled. I know I’ve pointed out in the past how he has a real nice smile, but when you’ve seen it as much as I have lately, and its used in the place of an answer to a question, it gets irritating.
“Mr. Poe is dead, he doesn’t need to write,” my LF whispered, her tone like a pillow, which if you heard it, you would agree is totally possible.
“Why does he want me to go away?” I asked.
“He doesn’t want you to go,” Benny said, “just leave him alone.”
“That’s not fair,” I said, looking to num and nuts. Now they stared back at me with puckered lips and lazy eyes–like I was someone’s greasy take-out order that they had to deliver.
“Let’s go sit in the rotunda,” my LF said, and pointed to the segment of Poe Park where there was a playground and a circular rotunda.
“Baldie,” she said, scratching my dome. I can never resist that. Me and my dog, Scrappy D, love it—fingers right behind the ears, and it’s not the same when you do it yourself. “Come on, let’s go and sit.”
So we did. But I didn’t sit. I got my punk rock grove on. At first I probably looked like one of those guys practicing Tai-Chi; the ones that maybe look a little nuts, and you can’t tell if they are or not.
I wished I had my iTunes player, or just my headphones. This way I could have danced around and nobody could have said anything because of the wires.
People were cutting across the park, and I didn’t look at them as I hummed real loud and danced. I’m pretty sure I can do that and not seem like a nut. I’m pretty sure about that, yeah, pretty sure . . .
Lo and behold, Poe poked his head in the park. He ventured inside in a tentative manner, leaning forward with his hands clasped behind his back. He wore a pea coat and had a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck.
“You have to understand, think of him as a bird,” Benny said, “one you don’t want to scare away.”
Edgar’s face was ghostly pale, though free of any worry or signs of a burden. He kept looking off into the blue sky. With each passing moment, he seemed to grow more confident. He smiled, intermittently. It was a small, closed-mouth grin.
I could just make out a young woman on the porch of his cottage. She sat on a rocking chair and seemed to be cradling a small child.
Edgar circled us and for the life of me, I couldn’t think what to say that wasn’t related to either his “work or his life.”
“Don’t ask him about writing,” Benny said from the crook of his mouth.
Edgar glanced our way as Benny said the word “writing.” So I believed the old homeless man knew what he was talking about. I even gave a big, manly nod in the bard’s direction, so he would know I wasn’t a jerk.
Just then I thought of this girl I had met outside Bono’s apartment one night when U2 was on the European leg of their tour last month. She was all doe-eyed, and said to me as I was waiting to cross the street, “Do you know who lives there?” I didn’t mention that they were out of town, but I kinda figured if she was a nutty fan, maybe she knew and was there to soak in Bono’s essence . . .
–Poe looked pretty darn handsome! Like I had stated, there was no sign of torment or conflict on his face. He looked like a cool, artsy cat. Especially in the stylish attire he wore.
“How about them Yanks?” I asked Edgar, and felt like the dopiest person on the face of the Earth. It was all I could come up with.
It worked because he looked right in my eyes and spoke to me.
“Here lies a place to set ink to paper,” Edgar said, sounding almost British—or at least self-assured and full of worldly acumen. “Here lies a place to dream a dream that has not been dreamt.”
“That sounds really good,” I said, grinding my teeth, not knowing what to say next. I really wanted to ask him to recite a few lines from The Raven.
Edgar looked back to the cottage. The woman with the child stood and must have said something because he went to her.
I tried to stop myself from running after him, but my feet were moving, and I couldn’t help it. I don’t think I was going to tackle him. I mean, it was his ghost, and I couldn’t anyway. Which was probably a good thing because I was “out of my head.”
“Time to go, Baldie,” my LF said, cutting in front of me.
“That’s it?” I said. “I want another minute with him.”
In what seemed a grandiose gesture, Edgar Allan Poe raised his right hand. He continued to walk away, though began to speak in a loud and clear voice:
“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—“
With a big smile, I started to shimmy around a little. I closed my eyes and imagined I was dancing on the back of a giant bird, soaring off into the clouds.
“—As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this, and nothing more . . .”
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty – October/November 2009
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx (Pics only)