Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jack Scott writes

Part V

To My Executor:

This is my will and testament,
a very simple one
so pay full attention
and carry out my wishes, please.

I hope I have been good to you,
fair, considerate and honest.

If not, speak up
and let me make amends
to your satisfaction
while I have the chance.
If you’ve a grievance
let me make it right.
I need to be assured
you will fulfill my intent.
To rule out deal breaker,
I’ve left you my estate.

This catalog of threats
leads us to that towering threat,
not death itself as you might guess,
but something more immediate
to life, its very end.

Before you dispose of me
be sure I’m dead.
That doesn’t mean
to kill me twice.
If there is any doubt,
just get a second doc’s
opinion - and a third.

Don’t cram me in a coffin;
a very large cardboard box will do;
I’ll explain this in a few.

Absolutely, do not bury me
in the cold, cold ground.
or any other place
underneath a lawn

I’ve read about those bad old days
when verifying death
was more art than science:
guessing at a pulse or breath
too faint to be detected
by bare human senses,
leading Mr. Poe and others,
(Quentin Tarantino, for one)
to fixate on a fate
much worse than death:
premature interment.

Preposterous inventions
were patented and made
as life saving panic buttons.
Some coffins had breathing tubes
and bells with strings for ringing
or wavy little flags
to summon help with shovels:
B Plans to rescue
physicians’ oopses- 
pragmatic reincarnation.

To stretch imagination
far past its breaking point,
should I ever find myself
in that hellish situation
I would relive my life
(not a welcome thought)
to devotedly prevent it.

Leave not one thing to error
or miscalculation.
Don’t point me toward a coffin
or anywhere near a hole.
It’s not the thought of worms,
but purely the confinement.
Find me, instead, a roaring furnace,
and let it devour me.

Should cryogenics
cross your mind
you might need exorcism.
Entomb me in a freezer?
No fucking way!
Rather go ahead and eat me.

My ashes, ah,
I thought you’d never ask.
You might think the ocean
because I was a fisherman,
but no, it’s far too lonely,
too ocean for the dead.

The Chesapeake is also out of scale
and there is a fine for “littering.”

A gurgling trout stream
might be nice and fitting.
I’ve spent many of my best hours there
trying to outwit the wary fish,
occasionally winning.
But no, that paradise
might also prove too much
for what might be left of me.

Don’t sprinkle me in my back yard;
I’ve had enough of that place.

Why don’t you take my urn
high upon a high hill
when the wind is also high.
There, pop my lid and let me fly.
Dump anything that’s left
(It’s bone; I won’t need it.).

Let me be the dust on cobwebs,
what you remove when you clean your glasses,
initials on the mirror in an abandoned house,
what’s on your shoes after a summer hike,
the comets behind cars on unpaved country roads,
particles in sunsets that capture your attention . . .
I could go on;
there’ll be enough of me to go around,
I’ve always liked to travel.

Though I do not believe in hell
I hope that hell does not believe in me.

(The Ego is the last to die.)


Chinese finger traps freak me out.
What have I done to them?
Why do they want my fingers?




  1. Edgar Allan Poe was a 19th-century poet, editor, critic, and literary theorist, the first prominent American to try to make a living solely through his writing. He is often regarded as the inventor of the “short story” as distinct from the “tale,” the inventor of “detective fiction,” and an early contributor to the genre that would eventually be called science fiction. In 1827, when he was 18, he published 50 copies of the 40-page “Tamerlane and Other Poems, by a Bostonian," “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems” in 1829, and “Poems” in 1831. After his early attempts to succeed commercially as a poet, he turned his attention to prose; several of his best-known short stories dealt with the theme of being buried alive.

  2. His first success was "MS. Found in a Bottle," which won a prize from the “Baltimore Saturday Visiter” in 1833 and led to his introduction to the editor of the “Southern Literary Messenger” in Richmond, which began publishing his material, including "Berenice," which appeared in the March 1835 issue. (Due to complaints from shocked readers, Poe defended the story to the publisher, saying it was his goal to be appreciated and “to be appreciated you must be read,” though he also admitted that the story “approaches the very verge of bad taste -- but I will not sin quite so egregiously again." Nonetheless, in a revision that appeared in 1840, in his “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” he removed four paragraphs in which Egaeus visited Berenice before her burial and clearly saw her moving a finger and smiling, thus knowing full well that she was still alive.) Later in the year, at 26, he was named assistant editor but was fired within a few weeks for drunkenness. He returned to Baltimore, married his 13-year-old first cousin, then went back to Richmond and got his old job back after promising good behavior in the future, remaining there until 1837, boosting its circulation from 700 to 3,500, and contributing several poems, book reviews, critiques, and stories. He was strongly influenced by Kallimachos of Cyrene (in Libya), a 3rd-century BCE Greek poet/critict who claimed to "abhor all common things" and urged poets to "drive their wagons on untrodden fields," especially by abandoning epics modeled on those of Homeros and composing brief, yet carefully formed and worded, poems and epigrams instead; he claimed that Apollo himself had admonished him to "fatten his flocks, but to keep his muse slender." (Poe likewidse insisted that poems had to be short enough to read in one sitting in order to maintain its desired effect.) One of his students, Apollonius of Rhodes, refused to follow this advice, becoming famous for the long epic, “Argonautica,” which led to his being named chief librarian at Alexandria instead of Kallimachos; the two engaged in a bitter literary feud that lasted over 30 years. One of his poems concerned Berenike (“ bearer of victory"), who promised her hair to Aphrodite if her husband returned home safely from war. Egaeus may have been Poe’s derivation from Aegeus, the king of Athens who committed suicide when he mistakenly believed his son Theseus had died in his attempt to kill the Minotaur.

  3. Poe’s story relied on the popular conventions of “Gothic fiction” but employed realistic imagery to make it more sophisticated and terrifying, and the final lines were purposely protracted, using a series of conjunctions connecting multiple clauses as well as heavily accented consonants and long vowels to unify the effect. Egaeus was a studious young man who suffered from monomania, a type of disorder that caused him to fixate on things. He grew up in a large, gloomy mansion with his once-beautiful cousin Berenice, who suffered from some form of degenerative illness that led to periods of catalepsy (she did not speak through the entire story). Though they were engaged, Egaeus lost interest in Berenice as a person and became obsessed only with her still-healthy teeth. For days he slipped in and out of conscious awareness but could not stop thinking about her teeth, imagining himself holding them and turning them to examine them from every angle. A servant informed him that she had died and was to be buried. The next time he became lucid he awoke with an inexplicable terror and the sounds of screams, and found a lamp, a shovel, and a small box in front of him. A servant then reported that her grave had been violated but she was still alive, though shrouded and disfigured. Egaeus noticed that his clothes were covered in mud and blood. Opening the box, he found dental instruments, a poem about "visiting the grave of my beloved," and "thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances." He asked himself, “Why ... did the hairs of my head erect themselves on end, and the blood of my body become congealed within my veins?" (Earlier, he had asked himself, “How is it that from beauty I have derived a type of unloveliness?" This rhetorical device echoed the “Aetia” ("Causes"), a collection of elegiac poems that took the form of Kallimachos asking his Muse questions such as, "Why, on Paros, do worshippers of the Charites use neither flutes nor crowns?", "Why, at Argos is a month named for 'lambs'?, or "Why, at Leucas, does the image of Artemis have a mortar on its head?" )

  4. In 1839, Poe became assistant editor of “Burton's Gentleman's Magazine” and "The Fall of the House of Usher," the best example of Poe's theory of "totality," in which every element and detail was related and relevant, appeared in the September 1839 issue. In Poe’s native Boston, the Hezekiah Usher House, which had been built in 1684, was torn down in 1830 and two bodies were found embracing in a cavity in the cellar, presumed to have been a sailor and the young wife of her much older husband who caught and entombed them in their trysting spot. But as with Poe’s echoes of Kallimachos, Poe relied heavily on another of his alter ego models, E. T. A. Hoffmann, a Prussian writer of fantasy/horror stories, who described himself as "what school principals, parsons, uncles, and aunts call dissolute" and was frequently unemployed due to various social misdeeds; he died from alcohol abuse and syphilis in 1822 at 46 (six years older than Poe at his death). His story, "Das Majorat" in 1819, about a house owner named "Roderich,” featured eerie sounds in the night, a story within a story, and a house breaking in two. In Poe’s story, the (as usual) unnamed narrator was summoned by his friend Roderick Usher, who complained of hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to textures, light, sounds, smells and tastes), hypochondria (an excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness), and acute anxiety (though none of these conditions had been medically identified yet). Roderick's twin sister, Madeline, also fell into cataleptic, deathlike trances. The first "character" to appear was the house itself, with its windows described as "eye-like" twice in the first paragraph. The narrator tried to cheer his friend up by reading with him and listening to his improvised musical compositions on the guitar, including "The Haunted Palace," a poem Poe had published in the April 1839 issue of the “Baltimore Museum.” Later Usher told him Madeline was dead and insisted that she be entombed for two weeks in the family tomb in the house before being permanently buried. After helping put her body in the tomb, both men become increasingly agitated for no apparent reason. During a storm, the narrator reads “The Mad Tryst” (a fictional novel) to calm Roderick. As the reading progresses, its prose is punctuated and illustrated by various sound and other special effects: When Ethelred the knight breaks into a hermit’s dwelling to escape an approaching storm, cracking and ripping sounds are heard somewhere in the Usher house; when a dragon shrieks in its death throes, a scream is heard within the house; when a brass shield falls from a wall, a metallic, hollow reverberation is heard. Roderick became increasingly hysterical and revealed that the sounds were made by his sister, who was alive when she was entombed. The bedroom door blew open and Madeline fell onto her brother, and they both land on the floor dead. When the narrator fled in horror, he saw the house itself split in two and sink into a tarn.

  5. Poe’s collection of short stories, “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” received mixed reviews and little money. In early 1842, his wife began showing her first signs of tuberculosis, and Poe began drinking even more heavily. He left “Graham's” and worked briefly at the New York ”Evening Mirror” before becoming editor of the “Broadway Journal,” which he later purchased. But he alienated himself from the leading authors by publicly accusing popular poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism. In 1844, Poe published "The Premature Burial" in “The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper.” The unnamed narrator suffered from catalepsy and taphophobia, the fear of being buried alive. He refused to leave his home and built an elaborate tomb with equipment to let him signal for help if necessary. He awoke one night in pitch blackness in a confined area and cried out, but realized that he was actually in the berth of a small boat. The event shocked him out of his obsession.

  6. On January 29, 1845, Poe’s poem "The Raven" appeared in the “Evening Mirror” and became a popular sensation, making Poe a famous man though he was only paid $9. One of his persistent literary enemies, Thomas Dunn English, whom Poe had successfully sued for libel, published “1844, or, The Power of the S.F.,” a novel of revenge that included a character named Marmaduke Hammerhead, the famous author of "The Black Crow" who was depicted as a drunkard, liar, and abusive lover and sprinkled his conversation with phrases like "Nevermore" and "lost Lenore" that were directly lifted from "The Raven.” Poe responded by using elements of English’s novel and twisting them into an ironic, venomous tale entitled "The Cask of Amontillado." As the assassin Montresor explained, "A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its reddresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong." "The Cask of Amontillado" came out in the November 1846 issue of “Godey's Lady's Book,” the most popular periodical in America. In it Montresor narrated how he got his revenge on Fortunato for an unspecified insult by appealing to his vanity to lure him into a private excursion to pronounce judgment on a large quantity of a rare vintage of amontillado, a variety of Spanish sherry developed in the18th century that was characterized by being darker than fino but lighter than oloroso (It begins as a fino, then is fortified to 13.5% alcohol with a cap of flor yeast to limit its exposure to the air, or to 17.5 % without the flor cap. After the fortification, the wine oxidises slowly in a slightly porous American or Canadian oak cask, gaining a darker color and richer flavor than fino.) During their walk, Montresor discussed his family coat of arms, a golden foot crushing a snake whose fangs are embedded in the foot's heel, with the motto “Nemo me impune lacessit” (No one attacks me with impunity). As they wander in the catacombs of Montresor’s palazzo, Montresor kept giving him Medoc and De Grave wine to keep him inebriated. Fortunato had a bad cough, so Montresor warned him of the dampness of the wine cellar and urged him to go back, but Fortunato insisted on continuing, claiming that he “shall not die of a cough." At one point, Fortunato made an elaborate gesture with an upraised wine bottle, which Montresor did not recognize, causing Fortunato to ask, "You are not of the masons?" and Montresor pulled out a hidden trowel to demonstrate that he was one. Eventually, Montresor chained the drunken, unresisting Fortunato to a wall and entombed him alive. As the murderer finished the topmost row of stones, a sober Fortunato wailed, "For the love of God, Montresor!" to which Montresor replied, "Yes, for the love of God!" Poe progressed the story thorough the mirrored names and roles of the two protagonists and the ironic commentary they engaged in, unconscious irony in one case and deliberate mocking in the other.
    The “Broadway Journal” failed in 1846 and Poe moved to a cottage in Fordham, New York, where his wife died on January 30, 1847. Afterwards, he became increasingly unstable and erratic. On October 3, 1849, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, wearing clothes that were not his own. He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died on October 7 without ever regaining coherence. A long obituary by “Ludwig” appeared in Horace Greeley’s “New-York Daily Tribune” and widely republished. It began, “"Edgar Allan Poe is dead…. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." The actual author was Rufus Wilmot Griswold, another of Poe’s enemies who soon thereafter became Poe's literary executor and wrote a biographical article which he included in his 1850 volume of Poe’s collected works, using forged letters to depict him as a depraved, drunken, drug-addled madman.

  7. In Quentin Tarantino’s two-part movie “Kill Bill” was released in 2003 and 2004 and featured Uma Thurman as Beatrix "Black Mamba" Kiddo (AKA “The Bride”), who was buried alive. Much of it (dialogue, attitude, cinematography, nonlinear storytelling, etc.) was thematically re-used in the two-part "Grave Danger" episodes Tarantino directed to close the 5th season of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” TV series in 2005, George Eades, as Nick Stokes, was also buried alive in a Plexiglas coffin along with his loaded pistol, a set of glow sticks, and a dictaphone, which informed him, “Hi, CSI guy. You wondering why you're here? Because you followed the evidence. Because that's what CSIs do. So breathe quick, breathe slow, put your gun in your mouth and pull the trigger. Any way you like, you're going to die here." Another package was sent to the CSI headquarters, with a link to a website with the message, "One million dollars in 12 hours or the CSI dies. Drop-off instructions to follow. And now for your viewing can only WATCH." Another link opened a webcam viewer that activated a light in the coffin to broadcast Nick frantically pounding on the box lid. When the ransom was paid, the kidnapper taunted, "What does Nick Stokes mean to you? How do you feel when you see him in that coffin? Does your soul die every time you push that button? How do you feel, knowing that there's nothing you can do to get him out of that hell? Helpless? Useless? Impotent? Good. Welcome to my world" before blowing himself up. Gordon’s entire plan was to avenge his daughter’s conviction as an accessory to murder, but CSI managed to rescue Nick by the end of Part 2.


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