Ten minutes past midnight and five since Stevie Nicks finished singing Annabel Lee.
“Did you ever have to learn this poem or anything else by Edgar Allen Poe.”
My daughter looks up, dark eyes focused on me long enough to say they studied The Raven and then her head returns to her phone and a conversation with a girl friend.
“Annabel Lee was one of the poems that got me interested in poetry.”
She doesn’t respond but I know she heard me. She is fresh from her shift at her current employment and is winding down.
A short time ago I was positioned in front of the television but I was next to the front window watching for headlights so that I would know she was home.
We’re in that funny place of about seven weeks before her high school graduation and her race into a new world called college.
I remember my own transition and the ideas I had about what would come next and the world I would build. Close my eyes and I can see my 12th grade English teacher quote 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—With a love that the wingèd seraphs of HeavenCoveted her and me.
Wrestling With Angels
Mr. Wilf talks a bit about Edgar Allen Poe and recites more of the poem and then asks us to comment.
We talk about the sepulcher by the sea, whether the angels killed Annabel and what we might have done. Would we sleep by the grave of our love and would we risk the wrath of the supernatural by trying to prevent them from taking her.
“There is a tradition of wrestling with angels. I would have done it. I would have gone all night and a day.”
There is a certain amount of laughter at that and a few others who say they would have done so as well.
“What do we know about this? That biblical story about Jacob wrestling with an angel. Supposedly he won”
Some people scoff and there is a bigger discussion involving whether the story is fact or fiction. I never stop arguing that if it is real there is no reason I couldn’t do it too…wrestle an angel.
Thirty-five years later nothing has changed. If angels exist and men are capable of wrestling them why couldn’t I be one of those.
Why do we have to see it solely in physical terms? Couldn’t it be a test of wills? Couldn’t it be a mental exercise? Why do we have to make it a physical contest and use such human terms?
Why can’t we take a different approach?
Why can’t we say creation took place over seven days but say the days were millions of years in length? If we want to say there is an omnipotent being that is capable of doing anything why does he/she/it have to be subject to a 24 hour day like a human.
Why can’t we look at things differently.
I am driving down Bryant Irvin past the Coventry at Cityview Apartments and the past The Heights towards the apartment complex I lived in when I first moved to Texas.
Got a few minutes before a meeting and I am killing time by checking out the old neighborhood.
It is familiar, warm and inviting to me. A place where I can look back at a beginning, middle and end of some things.
The phone rings and I answer it using the magic of Apple Car play and in a moment I go from listening to America sing Lonely People to a conversation about how to persuade some people to adopt a different perspective.
“We need to find a simple story to tell them. Something they can relate to that has a beginning, middle and end that can be spelled out in less than three minutes.”
The other party asks me how to do it and I ask if they can take notes.
When they offer an affirmation of their ability to do so I compose a six line email and then ask them to read it back to me.
“Do you always write this fast?”
I tell them I write faster when I am sitting at the keyboard or holding a pen and am not distracted by traffic.
“Well this is pretty good.”
“I am not ready to call it anything. If it doesn’t convince them to move from their space it is just a few pretty words.
Have you ever complimented a woman at a party and then watched her try to decide if you are feeding her a line or being sincere?
We’re sincere here and we want her to believe it.”
“You know that this is going to two men?”
“You’re overthinking this. The point isn’t about gender. It is about telling a story they can relate to. The story provides a solution to a problem they have and it does it in a simple way that is easy to understand.”
Later on I’ll send the person on the far end of the call the Steinbeck quote and say it is applicable to everything we do.
We’ll go back and forth a few more times as I answer a few questions and then I’ll start my weekend and forget about the conversation until now.
Somewhere a little bit longer past midnight I’ll consider sending an excerpt from Annabel Lee and comment upon how it has stuck with me for all these years and that if we can come up with something similar we’ll be golden.
It was many and many a year ago,In a kingdom by the sea,That a maiden there lived whom you may knowBy the name of Annabel Lee;And this maiden she lived with no other thoughtThan to love and be loved by me.
Such a simple but profound story that is easily related and understood by people regardless of time. These are the stories of the human condition.
That is real art, the kind I would be proud to create.