In my teens, one of my birthday presents one year was the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. It was a 1903 edtion - 5 volumes of golden vanilla smelling pages.
Like most middle schoolers, I had to read The Tell-Tale Heart. That xeroxed copy I carried home tucked inside my math book was my first introduction to the macabre and Gothic literature. I'd always loved dark and stormy nights and spooky things. But this. This was something huge and I knew it.
I must have talked and talked about it. Enough so that somewhere in that time, my parents found that decaying set of books and bought them for me.
I still have them.
They've survived a college dorm, 4 apartments, a trailer and 2 houses - 8 moves all together. I haven't read every story. I'm not that anal. Although I still like to think I will someday.
Two or three years ago on Halloween Eve, I lit a single candle and climbed the stairs to my bedroom with one of the books tucked under my arm and my two kids trailing behind me. By a single flame, I read to them The Raven until from the dark shadows a little voice said, "Can we turn the light on now?"
In college I discovered the poem, Annabel Lee:
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my ANNABEL LEE.
Sometimes I still catch myself saying those words like an incantation if something arises that brings them to mind. And I can't possibly hear Sinead O'Connor's Stretched on your Grave without thinking only of that poem. But I like the words. I like their rhythm. It sounds like a nursery rhyme gone horribly wrong.
Speaking of which. A few years back I picked up this book in the children's section of a used book store. The Children's section.
I carried it around the store until I realized it was an abridged version. Then I turned up my nose and put it back on the shelf. But I couldn't stop thinking about it and the art work inside.
I drove up the next day to get it, hoping it wouldn't be gone.
I mean if it was, I could have bought it on Amazon, but it wouldn't have been the same. I like to think it was hiding on that shelf, waiting for me to come by.
The thing I love most about Poe is that on any given page you can find words like:
The kind of words that are twined up in my DNA.
Anyway. Poor Edgar would have been 203 today had he not died under mysterious circumstances so many years ago. His own ending is a story that he could've written himself.
Happy Birthday Edgar! As long as I have my books, you won't be missed.