To come back and learn his alcoholism
was an illness–Poe had to laugh at that.
He knew the vanity of excuses better than anyone,
and how good self-destruction feels when one
is in the act of it. Still, he thought, you must be sober
to write your autobiography, set things straight.
He’d give up all notions of a kingdom by the sea,
try to see things as they were and are.
But soon came the old, constant rebellion
of the senses and mind, soon he remembered
that truth was an enormous house shrouded in mist
with many secret vaults, and that perfect sobriety
is the state in which you make the version of yourself
you like best, just another way to lie. He’d have
just one drink before dinner to ease in the night,
and from his window watch monstrous Lucy the Elephant
closing up, tourists no longer walking in her body
and looking out of her eyes. The world was stranger
than he had imagined it, certainly no less strange.
The newspaper that arrived daily at his doorstep
was storied with men who murdered because voices
told them to, girls who killed their newborns
then returned to the prom. In his autobiography
he’d insist on the ultimate sanity of the artist,
regardless of what he did with his life. He’d tell
of his long hours of calculation and care,
how when Usher’s house fell into that tarn
it was a victory of precision over the loose ends
of a troubled mind, how his insane narrators needed
everything that was rational in him all of the time.