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The Raven’s Hallow’een

[by Shannon Connor Winward]

 

—after Edgar Allan Poe

(for Joanne)

 

___Midnight in the cemetery, prowling, hunting, fat and merry

One black Cat grew rapt and wary, pausing on the bone yard floor.

___In the sky the moon hung low, setting earth and grave aglow;

___All gleamed white without shadow, but for a looming sycamore—

Over all, the fingered shadow of an ancient sycamore

______Where no tree had stood before.

 

___Ah, distinctly this Cat knew each stone that leaned and shrub that grew

Ev’ry tomb, each oak and yew, each urn and perch, and furthermore

___Here in this quiet terrain, the Cat was king. T’was his domain!

___Testily he faced this bane—a trespass he could not ignore.

Tail thumping his mad refrain, this trespass he could not endure—

______This unwelcome sycamore.

 

___Yet to the feline’s great ire, lo, the tree did not expire

Nor vanish in smoke or fire, nor fall to the bone yard floor.

___But from deep within its maw, there came a throaty, grating caw.

___Then from the tree’s leafy maw, as if from Hell’s own fiery door

Flew a massive Bird as black as that beyond a crypt’s barred door,

______Croaking, “Hark! The night of lore!”

 

___O! Then came the wind a-growling; from the ground an eerie howling

Sent the feline scrambling, meowling—cross the moonlit yard he tore!

___Yet he found his flight arrested; spirits from their graves divested,

___Ghosts above their tombstones crested, specters through the air did soar

To the Raven’s gleeful roar, “Rise, ye slumbering souls of yore!

______Rise, on this, the night of lore!”

 

___Thus the Cat fell back with dread, surrounded by the risen dead

Dancing on the graves they’d shed; and from the looming sycamore

___Quoth the Raven, “Be ye free, ye takers of life’s long reprieve!

___T’is tonight, All Hallow’s Eve!” And as the Raven did implore,

Phantoms danced and whooped and weaved across the cemetery floor

______Reveling in the night of lore.

 

___‘Midst all this nocturnal whiling sat the Cat, his luck reviling,

‘Till the spectral waltz, beguiling his foul mood to likewise soar,

___Joined the fray with feline grace; his tail aloft, the Cat gave chase—

___Ghostly hems, tendrils of lace, the sailing, trailing shrouds they wore

Drifting ever just beyond his reach across the fey dance floor—

______Such fun he’d ne’er had before!

 

___Over all, the Bird surveyed, frolicking Cat and swaying shade

‘Till dawn’s light into the circle strayed, and moonbeams bled to hoar

___Frost upon the ground betrayed the prints of only one lone Cat.

___Heaving breaths, he stopped, and sat, bereft to be alone once more.

But the Raven still looked down from where he’d been the night before,

______perched upon the sycamore.

 

___Silent, watching, black eyes gleaming, stately, but yet elsewise seeming

Normal—had the Cat been dreaming? Was he mad the night before?

___Feigning nonchalance, he paused. He flicked his tail. He licked his paws.

___Suddenly, the Raven cawed—a laugh! At him, the Cat was sure.

Laughter at the Cat, for sure; such insult he could not ignore!

______Haunches raised, he braced for war.

 

___Far the Raven’s wings outstretched, deep in the branch his talon’s etched.

Swathes in the grass Cat’s tail sketched, yet from the tree the great Bird tore

___Up into the lightening sky—a smudge of black, a lingering cry

___All the Raven left behind—but for the curious sycamore,

Standing where naught grew before. And since that wondrous night of lore

______there it stood, forevermore.

 


Shannon Connor Winward is the author of the Elgin-award winning chapbook, Undoing Winter. Her work has appeared in The Monarch Review, Qu, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, The Pedestal Magazine, Literary Mama, and The Wild Musette among others. In between writing, parenting, and other madness, Shannon is also a poetry editor for Devilfish Review and founding editor of Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal.

www.shannonconnorwinward.com

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