I was born about 8:00 p.m. on July 4, 1948, into a little-educated, hard-working, just-above-poor family whose only deep and abiding passion was love. Love was as free as wild muscadines from the hills or poke salad growing along the roadside; but unlike those treats, love knew no season and was always abundantly available – it was the one staple on which I was raised and still hunger for.

I piddled my way through high school, partied myself out of the opportunity to obtain a college degree, then followed the family path into construction. I was one of those people who would cheerfully expend maximum effort into grueling manual labor but would not make myself sit down and study for a chemistry test. Oh well, as Kurt Vonnegut said in a novel, “Hi-Ho!”

There was a period of several decades when I hardly wrote anything. I guess because my younger self felt that to be a writer, you had to earn a living with your words; and since that didn’t seem to be in the cards for me, I stowed my dozens of notebooks filled with youthful thoughts into a musty cardboard box – a notebook coffin – and put them away. However, now that I’m this older self, I clearly see that being a writer is much less complex than my youthful ideal of it. We are all writers, whether the words are etched on our spirits or on our tablets.

I am a poem, grateful to be included in so many different anthologies.

     

Nevermore, Once Again

by Charles Jones

Recently, I had a dream in which I had an encounter with the famous (infamous?) “Nevermore” raven that inspired the dark yet enduring poem “The Raven.” written (or transcribed?) by Edgar Allen Poe. In my dream, the raven was not perched on a bust of Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, but was instead perched on the shoulder of a busty, unidentified but verifiable flesh and blood goddess, as we mortal men are prone to see such things.


The dream dialogue began with my acknowledging that I recognized him as “Nevermore” from Poe’s piece. He conceded that he was indeed, the recalcitrant raven recounted by Poe. After a bit of additional small talk, he asked if I also read dusty old books throughout the night, as was Poe’s wont. I admitted that my mind had grown fallow to a great extent and that I didn’t study and absorb the wisdom of others as I should  and as I’m sure Mr. Poe had done. Then, in a moment of what I perceived as levity, I added a haughty, “Nevermore!”

Well, Nevermore thought it was a pretty fair “bon mot,” and the tone of our conversation relaxed. I inquired as to why he was choosing to respond to me with coherent thoughts and phrases, while he had seemingly gone out of his way to vex Mr. Poe by answering each and every of his inquiries with the singular, perplexing cry of “Nevermore!”

 

Nevermore adjusted his stance on the nameless lady’s shoulders and said, with a hint of pent-up frustration – “The god damn man couldn’t just didn’t know how to have a conversation. Always with the questions! Wanting to know if he would one day be reunited with Lenore. Well, Lenore was dead as a doornail for Crissakes! What was I supposed to tell this sentimental schmuck? So to spare feelings and, at the same time, not tell the man a bald-faced lie, I decided to finesse the situation.  I just went with a one-word pat answer for everything. One that I knew answered nothing, but at the same time, allowed the one hearing the proclamation to believe that he was being given a clue to something deep, dark and mysterious. And it worked like a charm. I’m pretty good at shit like that.”

I had no doubt that he was, indeed, good at shit like that and I wished I could stay longer and hear more of that shit – and continue to catch quick glimpses of that engaging bust just below Nevermore’s shoulder perch from time to time. But knowing the nature of my dreams, which are typically just quickly here and quickly gone (unlike those of Mr. Poe’s which could seemingly last through a full night’s lament – and whose recounting of same lasts for well beyond one century) I decided I’d best bid farewell before consciousness intruded and left me with a case of ‘ravenous interruptus’.

I bid farewell to Nevermore, took one last, long look at his pink, fleshy perch (could that be Lenore?), turned and began to walk out of the dream. Maybe I could dream up the Road to Eldorado some night soon. But before I could extricate myself from the dream, I heard a fluttering above me and saw that it was a small unkindness of ravens flying toward Nevermore. (Yes, a group of ravens is an “unkindness”, a group of magpies is a “murder”, but don’t despair – a group of larks is an “exaltation”, which equalizes things somewhat.)

I quickly looked back at Nevermore and saw that he had his wings spread wide and his head reared back. I could hear him making some proclamation to the unkindness fluttering above. But what was it he was yelling to them? Whatever it was seemed to be setting them into a frenzy of sorts. Their cawing overhead became louder and louder and they began to swoop down toward me, ever nearer and nearer. I listened more closely to Nevermore as he continued his exclamations. I stopped suddenly and asked, “What are you yelling to them? Are you saying ‘carrion’?”

 

Nevermore fluttered his wings and said, “Oh no! Don’t be silly. I was saying ‘carry on’. Just a friendly good-bye to you. You know, ‘Carry on’! Now you be careful on your way out of here. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the path out of a dream. Some people get in so deeply they nevermore find the world from which they embarked. So you carry on. And don’t let your imagination fall prey to an unkindness of scavenging beasts.”

 

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