The following poem, modeled after Poe’s “The Raven,” is based on an event that happened to me one cold, rainy night in January, when my (third-floor) washing machine decided to break and leak during the most rainy storm of the year. If you like creepy things like water demons, be sure to check out my newest book, Faulkner’s Apprentice, at www.valmuller.com .
Once upon a midnight deluge, while I cuddled in bed for refuge
In the warm, deceptive comfort of the flannel that I wore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping–
Someone not-so-gently wrapping, wrapping at the bedroom door.
“Tis my husband,” I yawned and muttered, “tapping at my bedroom door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, but slowly I grew wary in the bleak of January
As each vicious raindrop very heavily on the rooftop poured.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my bed a rested morrow—a morrow with dry wall and floor—
For a rare and rested morning with dry walls and rugs and floor—
Impossible here for evermore.
Then the frightful, mad, uncertain jerking of my husband lurking
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I thought, repeating,
‘Tis my husband at the entrance of my chamber door,
Some late errand causing him to linger at the chamber door.
That it is, and nothing more.
Presently, my soul grew sicker, responding then a little quicker,
“What,” said I, “Are you doing at the bedroom door?
I was so peacefully napping and so loudly you came rapping
With such strange and fearful tapping, tapping at the chamber door.”
His eyes grew wide. “What is it?” glancing, I implored.
Water there, and nothing more.
Deep into the water peering, shocked I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no homeowner wished to dream before.
But the silence was forever broken—yes, the washer, it was broken—
And the only words there spoken were the whispered words “the floor!”
This I whispered, and an echo muttered back the words, “the floor!”
Sopping there forever more.
Down into the stairway turning, all my blood within me burning,
Soon I heard a gushing somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely it is not the horrid image seething through my brain,”
I said, in pain, and rushed to confront what I’d abhor.
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore—
‘Tis the rain and nothing more!”
Down the stairs I nearly shuddered; my flannel, dripping, nearly fluttered
As I stepped into a puddle pooling on the hardwood floor.
Not the least obeisance made it, not a minute stopped or stayed it;
With the chlorine it emitted, it swirled around the wooden floor—
Swirled upon a hardwood plank and wet the gleaming hardwood floor,
Swirled and dripped and nothing more.
Then this water demon drowning my restful sleep into frowning
By the grave and stern reality of the wetness on the floor.
“Though thy form be wet and brazen, thou,” I said, “shall not emblazen
Ghastly water marks and graven markings upon my hardwood floor.
Tell me thy nefarious purpose that turned my home into the shore!”
Dripped the water, “Nevermore.”
Much I marveled this ungainly water to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Should e’er be cursed with sound or seeing water on his hardwood floor—
Water swirling, dripping, whirling fast upon the hardwood floor
That splashes the sound of “nevermore.”
I rushed up to turn off the water, but it stopped not—it did not matter—
That one sound, as if my soul in that one sound did outpour—
Nothing further the water muttered, but continued in starts and sputters
To drip on floor and table clutter as water has never dripped before.
“On the morrow, the water will leave me and my home will be dry as before.”
Then the water gushed, “Nevermore.”
Staring at the water dripping, my stomach fluttering hard and sinking,
“Doubtless,” said I, “it will stop dripping from the ceiling to the floor.
Caught in some unhappy piping, some drywall on the ceiling striping,
Flowing fast and flowing faster till it could flow no more.”
Then the dirges of the water’s chanting continued dripping once more
To the tune of “nevermore.”
Then the water still annoying my sad soul to nearly crying,
Straight I wheeled a wooden seat under the drip along the floor.
I held a bucket under the dripping—my sanity was close to flipping—
Crazy unto crazy, thinking how much more I could handle of the chore—
This grim, ungainly, ghastly, grotesque, gurgling water on the floor
That seemed to stop dripping—nevermore.
When? I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the ghost whose watery drips singed like acid into my hardwood floor.
This and more I sat divining, with my eyes so nearly crying
At the midnight’s surreal timing as the water drizzled o’er—
The bucket I balanced on the railing that the water drizzled o’er.
The water shall stop, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew hopeful, to lighten up my sadly woeful
Mood brought on by water gushing from the ceiling to the floor.
Restoration trucks—Insurance had sent thee—to help the water that tormented me
Respite, respite and nepenthe, and forget the water on the floor!
Oh, please, Insurance, come and help me to forget the water on the floor.
Gushed the water, “Nevermore!”
“Water,” said I, “thing of evil! Water, still, sent by the devil,
Water demon that brought the rainy tempest inside my door;
Desolate and wet, undaunted, making my house water-haunted,”–
In my home the water taunted—“Tell me from the hardwood floor,
Is there dryness in my future; will you leave and come no more?”
Gurgled the water, “Nevermore.”
“Water!” said I, “Thing of evil! Demon still, if ghost or devil,
By the water that drips above us, by the water I now abhor,
Tell this soul with sorrow drippy, and hopefully quite quickly,
If it shall see an arid future in the townhome I once adored—
See a dry and peaceful future in the place I once adored?”
Gurgled the water, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, dripping mess,” I shrieked, upstarting,
“Get thee back into the tempest and the night’s downpouring roar!
Leave no black mold as a token of my dripping washer, broken,
Or the night I was awoken by the water on my floor!
Take your drips from out my ceiling and your pools from off my floor.”
Dripped the water, “Nevermore.”
And the water, never flitting, still is dripping, still is dripping,
From the pallid paint above me onto my gleaning hardwood floor;
And its drips and sound of gurgling, like a sinister figure burgling
My mind and home, incessant burdening as it pools upon the floor.
And my soul from out that puddle that lies pooling on the floor
Shall be drowned—forevermore!
The Spot Writers- our members:
Catherine A. MacKenzie