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2013 Contest Winner


The Raven Revisited
Written By:   Rachel, 17 years old, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

So there I was, awaiting joyous as the hour drew more near us
When the man would come and join us, my dear love and his Lenore.
I crossed the room, nervously pacing, playing with my dress’s lacing,
When suddenly I turned, was facing, facing faces at my door,
Faces I had never seen but now were peering round my door
  Which had been closed moments before.

"See that girl upon the bed? Waiting for her hour to wed?
She’s caught up in her pretty head," murmured voices at the door.
"Darling, please allow us help you find the strength you need to go through
Walking down the aisle into blissful marriage, love, amore,
With the man you know so well and whom you wholly do adore,
   To live together evermore."

And at their words I began doubting this great love I had been touting,
From the highest mountain shouting, "I love him; I couldn’t more!"
My confidence now not so steady, though I had just been quite ready,
To pledge the heart given already to my love many years before,
He who deserved the love received however many years before
   And years from now should receive more.

"Help me, ladies! Help unearned, but help now desperately yearned;
He deserves not to be spurned!" I told the faces at my door.
"I know not why I’m such a wreck, like there’s a noose about my neck,
Only that I require a check to find me where I was before,
Prepared to walk and say my vows, a happy, lovesick, sweet Lenore,
   Bound to another evermore."

They shared a look, held out a phial with an odd, peculiar smile;
It smelled of blooms and something vile which I’d never smelled before.
One reached out and beckoned to me. "Come and sip some of this, deary.
It holds one draft of nepenthe; ‘twill quash this angst which you deplore,
Make you forget the worries you feel and go a long way to restore
   The love you say you felt before.

That was all they needed say—I wanted the nerves to go away
And knew my heart would always stay the way that I had felt before.
If only I could rid my mind of any thoughts that seem inclined
To keep me from what I’d resigned myself to many moons before.
No, not resigned—I wanted this, a love that felt like finding shore
   After years at sea at war.

I carefully pulled out the stop, saw vapors curling from the top,
And threw it back, drank every drop. Then tremors wracked me to my core.
I groaned and wrapped my arms around my middle as I hit the ground
And hardly even heard the sound of footsteps racing through the door,
Coming to my side and kneeling next to me down on the floor;
   All was drowned out by a dull roar.

I felt soft hands upon my head and motioned limply toward the bed,
Or tried to—thought I’d soon be dead from this elixir I’d asked for.
To the bed they didn’t take me—though they lingered all around me,
They all seemed to just ignore me, writhing, dying on the floor.
I knew not what was going on as I lost consciousness more, more…
   That I’d not pull through seemed sure.

Somewhere in my senseless state I seemed to feel some dark abate,
Though I still felt quite far from great. Thank God! I couldn’t take much more.
But alas, ‘twas not receding, this most foul and horrid feeling…
Only was it somehow fading, different from what heretofore
Had tossed me like some flaming ocean, bashing me against a shore
   Lined with sharp rocks that ripped and tore…

Now ‘twas prodding and some pricking, all along my scalp a picking—
Felt like some harsh thing was sticking needles where hair was before,
Like some dark force was hereabout and prodding from the inside out.
A pain so sharp it made me shout a shout I’d never heard before,
Scarcely a shout at all, in fact. A shout somehow both less and more,
   A sound I knew I’d soon deplore.

It was a common, foreign sound no human chords had ever found,
But in the wide skies did abound. It didn’t sound like me, Lenore.
It sounded rough and harsh and raw, a bit outside of nature’s law—
It sounded like a raven’s caw. Though I’d never heard it before,
I sensed I’d come to know it well. I tried to say a few words more.
   Didn’t sound like words anymore.

I shook my head in disbelief and tried to keep at bay the grief.
The attempt was painful brief as other worries encroached more.
I held my hand before my face; something else was in its place,
Some somethings with a subtle grace that could in theory let me soar—
Not that I’d ever want to soar, I think it’d leave me rather sore—
   But what else are black feathers for?

I shook and ruffled glossy wings—great uncoordinated things—
And cried the song the sad bird sings. What is this which once was Lenore?
Uncurl claws from a shaky perch, try to fly but careen and lurch,
Start some hopeless, desperate search for he who I pledged "Evermore—"
Can he be found? How much time passed since I should have said "Evermore?"
   Does he now myself abhor?

Somehow I found the darkened house in which he holed up like a mouse,
Deep in his study, hard to rouse, staring at his chamber door.
I fluttered, hovered, tapped the window; instead to the door he did go
Seeking someone, though there was no voice to answer his "Lenore?"
"Aye, Lenore!" I tried to cry and nearly managed the word called for,
   But came instead soft "Nevermore."

He soon heard the window tapping—I had not dared cease my rapping
While I lingered, panicked, flapping, hoping he’d make one trip more.
Open wide he flung the shutter with a quiet, nervous mutter,
Sounds I’d hoped he’d never utter, sorrowful for his Lenore.
I hurried through before it closed and perched above his chamber door—
   Perched, and sat, and nothing more. Then I saw the bust of Pallas—a gift from when we became us—
Hoped he’d take a hint if I just stayed near her and not the door.
He smiled at me and began walking; as he walked he began talking.
I felt joy, but then was balking as he asked what name I bore.
I tried to speak, but again choked; I could not say "’Tis I, Lenore!"
   So said I sadly, "Nevermore."

He grinned but then the look was thrown off as he started to bemoan
How many had left him alone. Nothing said could break me more!
He made mention of nepenthe, seemed to believe that it would free
Him from his memories of me… He knew not how wrong was the lore.
The potion did not ease the mind. Rather, it stole what he cared for,
   Made her a raven evermore.

In fits he cursed me, "thing of evil!" Called me names and deemed me devil.
Never would he know th’ upheaval brought to him and his Lenore,
Brought partially by mine own hand, now both of us forever banned
From a life so happily planned, taunted with sad true "Nevermore—"
Like Echo, words not of my voice, the only word for evermore
   To usher forth from cursed Lenore.




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