My son asks how my satire of The Raven is coming along. It’s stalled, I say, and explain the problem.
The first seven stanzas, more than a third of the poem, have nothing to do with the bird. Yet the inspiration to write this satire flaps all around me, every day, unavoidable reminders of their own absurdity: Pigeons!
So while my head is filled with dozens of lines about winged vermin, I have nowhere to use them until I establish a contrasting mood and backstory for my narrator.
What voice should replace Poe’s gloomy scholar lamenting the lost, Lenore, on a dark and wind-whipped night? What forlorn complaint has he or she? How to fit a pigeon – ridiculous as a chicken – into the tale?
I explain all this and my solution. I’m heartened by the reaction. Perhaps a case of making the mirror laugh, but my son likes what he hears.
A grocery clerk on break, eating lunch in the sun on the loading dock behind the supermarket, mourning the loss of his sandwich, or lamenting the mustard stain on his smock, or licking his wounds after getting chewed out by the manager for dropping a case of pickles, the brine running across the floor as he chased it with a mop. Something like that.
There’s promise in this, but I’m not convinced. How about a truck driver on the road to nowhere? A discarded politician ruing his loss? A chicken farmer whose flock is stricken by COVID?
Quoth the pigeon: “Chicken gore!”
Next week we travel from Mumbai to Charleston, where Edgar Allan Poe served as a U.S. Army Private under the name Edgar A. Perry at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. Perhaps, finally, there I will settle on my narrator and put the words in the pigeon’s mouth.