Prose adaptation/modification/completelydifferentversionof Edgar Allan Poe’s To Helen.
Helen, you look like a boat. Now don’t get me wrong; you’re pretty, and practical, too, like one of those log canoes the Indians used to paddle around in. But the kind of boat you remind me of is less the Nicean bark and a little more at home in the swamps of Florida.
Ever since you chalked your hair purple, your skin has seemed even more sickly pale, like mold. You’ve put on airs; you’re thinking Greece, or maybe Rome, but you’re more like London…in the middle of the plague.
You’re always posing–no, literally, posing, trying to look like Shakespeare and Arabian Nights. Even now you’re parading back and forth in front of the window. That flashlight in your hand: what are you doing with it, one if by land, two if by sea? Austen was wrong; your figure does not appear to best advantage while walking. Remember, love, you’re built like an aircraft carrier.
Perhaps I should be glad, my dear, that you don’t speak English, in light of what I’ve said. After all, you can’t help your looks, and I might wound your poor little psyche. But if I can offer some advice, my Arabian battleship, perhaps you should eat a little less?
This was my third creative sketch of the late night and wee hours of the morning, and I think this one might just fit the bill.
A gap in the bushes separated our yard from the grasses of the secret place beyond. Tall hedges encompassed the whole enclosure, so that when you crossed into it you stepped into a separate world that smelled of lavender and dead leaves. An oak tree grew in the middle, surrounded by lavender bushes and a little cinderblock wall. Its branches were long and the leaves thick, so that in the summer the roof threw green shadows that danced on the ground. A swing hung from one limb.
In fact, it was rather like the Wood-Between-the-Worlds, except earthier and suited to being occupied by children. The oak gave off the feeling that it was the only thing holding the world together, and that like Atlas it held the sky on its shoulders. It was an anchor binding this world to all the infinite realms of adventure, so that you could always return from forays into imaginary places.
It was perfect for a six-year-old girl to get wildly lost in Narnia. Plots could be hatched, house could be kept, and it could easily be defended against pirates. The secrecy kept it a sanctuary, and the wildness left it the sort of place where anything could happen and something always would.
 Phrasing courtesy of Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.
I was going to use this for a creative sketch declamation, but wasn’t sure if it quite fit the guidelines. So.
Many, many, many moons ago, I had my first rare steak.
Malevolently. That was how it felt like the steak was staring at me. It was the kind of steak that had probably sat on someone nice in a previous life. I had ordered my bloody slab of cow medium to well done, and this was just so…not. I mean, the edges were singed and all, but I prefer my food dead, thank you very much.
Anyway, there it was, sitting on my plate like it owned the place. The cook had refused to take it back, jabbering something in Dutch about the World Cup. Apparently Holland was playing Spain and, being smack-dab in the middle of Amsterdam, he didn’t feel obliged to provide customer satisfaction on such an important night. Evidently he wasn’t concerned about customer safety, either, because this was precisely the sort of steak that might at any moment pull a Calvin-and-Hobbes move and attack me with my own fork. My personal theory was that he too was intimidated by the gimlet eye of the beastly thing, and was secretly chortling about it back in the kitchen. And still the steak just sat there oozing blood, defying me, practically daring me to try to eat it.
Due to various assorted confusing misunderstandings and hectic end-of-senior-year stuff, I had to write two final stanzas for this Ode. Odes are supposed to be five verses, each with fourteen lines. This one is six verses, but the sixth one can be used in place of the fifth one (hence some repetition). 🙂
The government is afraid of all of it. Hence the tight borders and rigorous policing of said borders. Nuns get patted down at airports. Handicapped children’s wheelchairs are searched. Old women with metal hips cause delays and annoyance for security guards, and woe to anyone who tries to bring their own water bottle into the terminal. You’re traveling home from the funeral with your inheritance, a set of twelve full silver place settings? A likely reason for carrying a dozen knives. Full-body scanners have been installed at most major airports, an incredible invasion of privacy to be addressed at some other time.
Suffice it to say, the United States of America is highly safety-conscious. Seat belts. Speed limits. Airbags. Flotation devices disguised as airplane cushions. How much money do we spend each year paying security people to dig through travelers’ underwear looking for bombs or guns disguised as perfume? The primary reason for this is the September 11 incident, one of the biggest strikes of terrorism against the United States. A worthy reason and a just cause, to be sure, but one that has spawned incredibly ineffective counter-measures. Our defenses are just as flawed as they ever were—terrorists are devious, villainous, diabolical, and downright sneaky.
Americans are getting annoyed. People are dying in droves while we’re stuck in line with plastic bins and no shoes, trying to get all the liquids out of our purses and into little plastic baggies so they can go through the scanner. Terror is still striking, and America is still defenseless.
I am hooked on Shakespeare. Not as much as I am on Edmund Spenser, but considerably more than Sidney.
“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny nonny.”