Til Turner 2020
Til Turner 2020
An introduction for children on the perils of the writing life.
On a bitterly cold January 19 in 1809, little Edgar Poe was born into a new and troubling world. His parents were poor stage actors. When Edgar turned one year old, his father abandoned him and his mother. A year later, his ailing mother passed away.
Poor Eddie was an orphan!
John and Frances Allan, a wealthy couple from Virginia, took little Edgar in and fostered him. They did not adopt him. He was now Edgar Allan Poe. He traveled to Scotland and England with them and they placed him in boarding schools.
Poor Eddie was lonely!
The family returned to Virginia, and Mr. Allan always complained about money and Edgar’s education expenses. Even when Edgar was in the University of Virginia, he had to drop out because he did not have enough money.
Poor Eddie had trouble with education!
Edgar wanted to be a poet. Sadly, he also liked to gamble. Even sadder, he lost most of the time. Edgar’s foster father was furious! Edgar left home and joined the U.S. Army in 1827. Happily, he published his first book of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems. Unfortunately, two years later his foster mother died.
Poor Eddie lost another mother!
In 1829, Edgar published another book of poetry before he joined the military academy at West Point. But, oh well, Edgar misbehaved at the academy and had to leave. So, he went to live with his aunt and cousin in Baltimore.
Poor Eddie just could not win!
In 1835, Edgar married his very young cousin, Virginia, who was sickly. By 1842 she became very ill and almost died. Three years later he published the “The Raven.” This poem made him famous. And it gave the world the famous “Nevermore” spoken by the raven. But, alas, Edgar only made nine dollars on the story.
Poor Eddie just could not make money!
In 1847, his tubercular young wife passed away. Later, Edgar returned to Virginia to try and marry an old sweetheart, but the girl’s mother would not allow it.
Poor Eddie had trouble with love!
He wrote many poems and stories. Some were quite sad, some quite spooky. Maybe you’ve heard of “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Pit and the Pendulum” or “The Cask of Amontillado.” Some poems were about young women who passed away. Some of his other writing was about philosophy and literature.
Poor Eddie at least was a gifted writer!
On October 7 in 1849, Edgar was found on a street in Baltimore very ill and almost unconscious. He was not even wearing his own clothes. He passed away in a hospital four days later. His death is still a mystery. No one knows why he was on the street or exactly what was wrong with him. Some people say he was suffering from a disease; others think it was drugs. Some even think he was murdered.
Edgar once wrote about the Imp of the Perverse. This was the being inside all of us that makes us want to do the actions that will actually harm us. Maybe he was right. Maybe Eddie made his own life more tragic.
Poor Eddie died a mystery. No money, no friends. But his words will live on forever!
Here is a vignette of mine published this month in Sleet Magazine.
Wife: Honey please pull over and ask for directions.
Husband: No, no, no Google will locate Kim’s house. I just need to reenter the address.
Wife: You’ve tried that three times already. There’s no cell service out here. Just ask someone. Hey! Pull over. There’s someone. That man by the vegetable stand.
Husband: Are you kidding? The man with no teeth who keeps waving?
Wife: If you don’t ask, I will.
Husband: Oh, so you’ll just get right out of a moving car?
Wife: Pull over!
Husband: All right, all right!
Sound of tires on gravel. Smell of honeysuckle, fresh tar, and garden vegetables.
Husband: Hi. Yes, excuse me. But we’re trying to find Kim Wonderby’s house. You have any idea how we can get there?
Old Man: Wonder… Wonder. Sounds familiar.
Husband: Great. Yeah. She and her husband are artists. He’s really tall and short haired, and she’s really short and long haired.
Wife: Kim’s not that short.
Husband: Not important, sweetie.
Old Man: Oh those folks. Yeah, yeah. They’re livin’ not far from here.
Husband: Excellent. So what’s the best route to take?
Old Man: Well, let’s see. You’ll need to go down the road your on about another two miles. Hmm. Oh yeah. Then you’ll need to go past the Thompson farm. You can’t miss it. It’ll be on your left. Keep a look out when you pass the big sycamore, ‘cause you’ll need to take a hard right turn. After that you’ll go about, oh let’s see. Hmm. Well, you go about a hundred yards past where they found young Timmy Sampson’s body last year. Terrible thing. Terrible. All torn to pieces. You might’ve heard about it.
Husband: Ah. No.
Old Man: Well, your gonna go about a hundred yards past that…
Husband: Hold it. How will I know the spot?
Old Man: Oh, you’ll probably see a little white cross with some flowers around it. His sister Ruthie’s been puttin’ flowers by the cross since Timmy died. She’s a mean ole witch of a thing. Some people say they wish it’d been her body beside the road. But folks here still feel sorry for her. Timmy was a good boy.
Husband: Oh, wow. That’s sad. So, we go about a hundred yards.
Old Man: Oh yeah, about a hundred yards after that your gonna see some dead grass on your right. That’s part of Martha Umpkin’s yard. She’s got some loose timbers in her attic. If you know what I mean. No one can tell her nothing. She keeps pourin’ old engine oil there every time she has her son change the tractor oil. She’s convinced it’s good for the soil. Her son’s just as simple. If a bear had his brains, it’d hibernate in the summer.
Husband: Ok. So, what do I do once I see the dead grass?
Old Man: Make a left.
Husband: A left.
Old Man: Yep. It’ll be a narrow dirt road. Use to belong to the Harrises. Mean old farts they were. Place was in the family for generations. Use to be slave holders. You can still see the old slave shacks in the woods. Lot a people round here think those woods are haunted. Don’t know why your friends wanted to have a place out there.
Husband: So once I’m on that narrow road I’m almost at their house?
Old Man: Almost. Your gonna cross an old wooden bridge. You’ll know your gettin’ close when you see the snake skins hangin’ from the trees. Don’t worry. It’s just the Pentecostal younguns. They belong to the snake handlin’ church near where Timmy Sampson’s body was. Those folks is all messed up. Think that handlin’ a poisonous snake shows how much faith in God you got. Yes sir. I tell you. They’re a bunch. The pastor’s son, he didn’t have much upstairs neither. He was mowin’ his yard barefoot and a copperhead bit him. Old Emma Lake saw the whole thing from her sick bed. Her bedroom window looks out over the creek and right at the pastor’s yard. She nearly broke her hip gettin’ to the telephone. She said that poor dumb boy sat there in the yard thanking the Lord for testin’ his faith. Well. I tell you, by the time the rescue squad got there that boy was stiffer than an oak board.
Husband: Snakes huh?
Wife: Are you getting all this?
Husband: You mean you haven’t been writing this down?
Old Man: Ah, don’t worry. Once you cross that bridge you’ll see the Wonderly house.
Husband: It’s Wonderby, not Wonderly. Thanks though.
Old Man: Hold on, now. Hold on. You said Wonderby?
Husband: Yes. Kim Wonderby.
Old Man: Oh, ha ha. I knew that name was familiar. The Wonderbys. You go down this road about two football fields and you’ll see their house on the right. Can’t miss it. Big brick son of a gun. It’s on the old Miller farm where…
Husband: Thank you. Grrr.
Wife: I told you their house was probably just up the road. But you never listen to me.
Melancholy Margo stands at
surrounded by all that
Lost in her past she never
the present just tall
panes of glass.
Reflections of was and
shadows of if
confound her hopes and her
Oh, dear Margo just one
breath of faith
would unlock your window of
Words and image by Til Turner 2018
I stood on the bank of a stream. A breeze blew through my hair. A voice called out to me, and I turned. My heart leapt, as it does when a friend greets you. I had not seen her in years, but we talked as if no time had passed. Her eyes were still wide, filled with hope, but now ringed from years of grief. She looked at the stream then back to me.
“I missed you,” she said.
“I meant to write,” I said.
The stream flowed by, and the sound soothed me. It washed clean the years of loss and brought back a chance to give all I had.
(This short piece is written only with one-syllable words.)