The Maven

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Posted by Kathy Waller

 

Once upon a time, a few days before Halloween, my friend ME called and said, “There are thirteen men under my house. They’re leveling it. For the second time in five years.” She then invited David and me to go with her and her husband to see the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, on the University of Texas campus. The next day, I presented ME, via email, the following verse. It first appeared at Telling the Truth, Mainly and is making its annual reappearance here. Mr. Poe might be horrified, but since ME is my Muse, the end product was bound to be a bit quirky.

 

*

*Dasypus novemcinctus – The nine-banded armadillo*

*

THE MAVEN

To G and ME,
in celebration of their tenth trimester of home improvement,
with gratitude and affection
Forgive me for making mirth of melancholy

 

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 rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore,

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” then let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling ’round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Senor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.’”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

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*

Kathy Waller blogs at
Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear in
AMW’s crime fiction anthology,
Murder on Wheels,
and at Mysterical=E.

 

 

 

 

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19 Responses to The Maven

  1. Mike Staton says:

    Fun rendition of your new version of the Edgar Allen Poe poem. Quite creative. Couldn’t help myself… a chuckle emerged from inside my mouth — and it’s 2:50 a.m. in the morning, not a time for chuckling.

    Like

    • kathywaller says:

      Thanks for chuckling, Mike, especially at 2:50 a.m. My unfortunate friends didn’t chuckle when told the beams beneath their pier-and-beam house were lying on the ground, unattached to anything–just a couple of years after the house had been leveled. But they forgave me for the verse.

      Like

  2. Wranglers says:

    I saw many a armadillo this week, most of them dead, but one alive. Thanks for your fun and interesting poem. Cher’ley

    Like

    • kathywaller says:

      Thanks, Cher’ley. I haven’t seen an armadillo since I moved to the city, and I miss them, even though they dug up the yard and scared the dog. I miss a lot of things I had out there.

      Like

  3. Doris says:

    Yes! Thank you for your rendition, it brought smiles to my heart. Doris

    Like

  4. Living with construction isn’t fun but necessary sometimes. This was cute.

    Like

  5. Nancy Jardine says:

    Ah, Kathy – Your poem brought forth visions of the whole house moving as though by itself- on stilts- with a giant armadillo at the side guiding the ghostly apparitions step by step and inch by inch into the gloom of a dark halloween! 🙂 I’m still smiling.

    Like

    • kathywaller says:

      Wow. The image you describe is so much better than the one I had when I wrote the verse. I did have visions of giant armadillos when I was a child and heard them banging against the pipes under the house at night. Spooky. Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  6. Got a kick out of it, Kathy. Good job and thanks for sharing!

    Like

  7. wyoauthor1 says:

    Very creative, very delightful, Kathy! Thanks for sharing and giving us all a chuckle!

    Like

  8. Wranglers says:

    I love the photo of the armadillo. I saw one along the road, Alive, a couple of weeks ago. Cher’ley

    Like

  9. kathywaller says:

    Alive? That is a rare occurrence. Poor old things, they just don’t move fast enough.

    Like

  10. S J Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing I loved your version and the visions it evoked.

    Like

  11. Neva Bodin says:

    What a clever recreation of Poe’s poetry. Humorous, yet descriptive of what was going on with the “armadillo’s” under the house as well as the occupant. I have never seen an armadillo but would love too, and they have my sympathy now.

    Like

    • kathywaller says:

      Thanks, Neva. I used to come upon one moseying around my yard, grubbing for bugs, when I went out early to get the newspaper. Armadillos are big in Austin because of the illustrations by Jim Franklin and the old music venue Armadillo World Headquarters (which I was never cool enough to go to). On a more serious side–they’re also the only animal besides humans to host the bacterium for leprosy (which appears to have been originally transmitted to them from humans [Europeans] following Columbus, not from the animal to humans.)

      Like

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