Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Raving King

NaPoWriMo, Day 30, Last Day

The Raving King

Once  upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over words I was sentenced to pen away in my wordy store,
When a-nodding off and nearly napping, suddenly there came a-blasting,
A semi-auto gun, a-banging, blowing away my chamber door.
"'Tis that bastard!," I exclaimed, "Blowing away my door again
 It’s Stephen King – he’s coming back for more!"

Ah, distinctly I remember -- it was in the froze’d December,
In kindling, glowing dying embers, my door lay splintered on my chamber’s floor.
Eagerly I wished for 'morrow; the man's bat-shit crazy, a la Jack Bauer,
‘Twas time for me to ghostwrite for him once more. Yes, here's the secret I had foresworn:
‘Tis from my word King’s horror empire's  truly born,
King left me nameless, penniless for evermore.

To be certain, I was King’s ghost, covered in a purple curtain
No thrill. Once, it paid my bills, but my fantastic terrors had been long ignored
‘Cause again, at my beating heart, King was aiming
His Smith and Wesson; my head was screaming – this scare routine had made me his writing whore.
Stephen King again breaking down my chamber door
Demanding gunpoint bestsellers, and giving nothing more.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
 "Sir, I’m mad. Nay – pissed. I do implore;
 The fact remains that I was napping, and you keep coming here and blasting
For decades I have been tapping out your lore.
But that’s scarcely been enough for you – always you want more!
You’re a true King of Darkness, I say! And nothing more!”

Deep into King’s darkness, I’ve long been peering; I stood there wondering and fearing,
A ghostwriter doubting dreams no mortal dared dream before;
But King’s silence was unbroken, and in the darkness –typical! -- he gave no token,
Until finally, two words King whispered I’d heard before: “Write more.”
And angered, this I whispered back my words, "No more!"
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
I spoke again my passion somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "Here it is -- there is something in my contract;
Let me see, then, where’sit-at – let us this mystery legal language go explore--
Sit, be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
And put the gun down – please, no need for any war!"

Here he slung his gun and with grumbling mutter
In stepped Stephen King, the stately King of gore.
 Not the least deference I gave, though an instant stopped and stayed:
With the mien of a feudal lord, King walked across the remains of my door--
Swept upon the dust of the remains of my chamber door--
Upon my favorite velvet chair King sat, and nothing more.

Then this Dirty Bird beguiled my sad Misery into near-giggling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the face he wore,
"My 'Tom Gordon' earnings were a-shaven" I said, "Surely you are not so craven,
 Ghastly grim and ancient, raving and blasting down my door.
Tell me! Why has my name been cut down by your lawnmower?"
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

Much I marvelled his ungainly foulness. Of course, plainly,
His answer – like his word -- had little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For (between you and me) we cannot help but to agree, that no other human be
Ever yet as blessed as me, to be the true wordsmith behind my master’s horror.
This beast cujoled upon my due credit and my payment due once more
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

But the Raving King, sitting like Almighty Unholy, Stephen King, he spoke only 

Those two words, as if his soul in those words he did outpour.

Nothing farther did he utter. Then like Randall Flagg, he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Like shining ghosts who came to write before--
In a moment you will leave me, and with you, Carry my hopes, as they have flown before."
Then the King said "Write more."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what you utter is only stock and store
I’m caught unhappy. With you as my master, you've left me an unmerciful disaster
Writing fast and following after under the doom your contract bore--
 The dirges of my Hope is my melancholy burden worn
Never paid – never credited.  Nevermore!'"

But the Raving King was still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of King Bird, and busted door;
Then, pouring over contract wording, I betook to a recurring --
Mr. Ominous Fancy Pants has put me through this before
I knew what this grim, ungainly, ghastly, green and ominous mile of yore
Was meant in his croaking "Write more."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To King’s foul and fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
 On my cushion's velvet lining that the Langolier gloated o'er,
On my velvet violet lining that the Langolier gloated o'er,
He pressed again, ah, write more!

Then, I thought, the air grew denser, his cheap cologne could have used a censor.
He worked his angle with the feint of fallen angels whose feet had fouled my once-good floor!
"Wretch," I cried, "Why won’t you lend me – by all the angels up above me—
 Respite--respite! Sign my check! Just give me one bank deposits. Man, I’m poor!
I drink! I drink! To forget that you forget all the work that I have poured! To forget I could have been so much more.
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

"Dammit!" said I, "thing of evil!—Dammit still, if dirty bird or devil!--
Tempter, when I tossed my lot onto your shores,
I was desolate, yet undaunted, of the crap contract I was handed --
But in my home, for years haunted --tell me truly, I implore--
Is there—my name in ANY acknowledgements?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

"Stephen King!" said I, "thing of evil—King , if dirty bird or devil!
By the Heaven that bends above us--by the God we both adore--
Tell this soul with shallow pockets and anonymous book jackets
If I will e’er grasp a bound hardback whom the angels named me for --
Clasp a rare and radiant hardback whom the angels have royalties for."
 Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

"Be that word our sign of parting, fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get back into your Plymouth Fury and bother me no more!
Belch black plume exhaust a token of the lies your soul has spoken!
Leave my obscurity unbroken!—And also Quit Busting Down My Goddamned Door!
Take my words from out of my heart -- then haul thy sorry ass and GET OUT MY DOOR!"
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

And Stephen King -- never splitting -- still is sitting, still is sitting
Amidst the dust on my velvet lounger, after gunning down my chamber's door;
His eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light over him is streaming his Randall shadows on my floor;
And my soul, ne’er out of King’s shadow as I lay typing on my cold floor
I am for King still heavy lifting – forever more!
Forever more!

© Julie Bartha-Vasquez, 2013
(But we all know most of the credit – and lots of apologies -- goes to Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.)

If you've never read King's memoir
"On Writing," go read it.
Notes on the Poem:
It is 2:10 a.m. on May 1st, which means NaPoWriMo is officially over. I banged this whole thing out just today. The idea didn’t come together until very late today. The lines are off. There are probably typos, even though I did proof it. It still needs work. I’m just too damn exhausted to explain all the hows and whys I did what I did. Here are just the most important things to know:

I took Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven" and retold the story. In my story, "The Raving King" is Stephen King. He is holding the narrator as a contractual hostage as his ghostwriter. The narrator is supposed to be the real genius behind the success of Stephen King. It's meant to be silly and absurd.

No, the narrator is not "me." I think I was about 3-years-old when King published his first breakout hit, "Carrie." (See above, silly & absurd.) But being a working writer, it's very easy to get stuck in an "abusive relationship" situation. We've all been there at one time or another. So in that sense -- can I get a little credit? Can you at least get the check out to me? Please? -- that might be a little bit of me... and many, many writer friends of mine.

Yes, I am a fan of Stephen King. A big one, actually, both of his stories and as a writer. And his wife Tabitha King wrote one of my  favorite novels "One on One." I didn’t realize she was Stephen King’s wife when I started reading  it. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a great book. And I'm bummed no one seems to be selling it. The characters were quite vivid and stuck with me years later. I don't even like basketball. (It's about two high school basketball players who fall in love, but it's so much more than that.) I'm getting way off track. If  you can find a copy, go read it. Seriously.

Yes, I know it's a crow
and not a raven. 
Anyway, back to my absurd poem. “Stephen King” in this poem is a character – kind of like "Wil Wheaton" on "The Big Bang Theory." You know that the real-life Wil Wheaton is not a huge dick in real life. Based on his Twitter feed and other things I've read, real-world Wil Wheaton is probably an okay guy. But that's my basic premise. Real-world Stephen King -- from what I do know, having never met the man -- is a good, decent guy. But my character, "Stephen King" is an asshole who holds struggling writers hostage in a chamber with a crappy ghostwriting contract and a gun. He never  acknowledges the writer's work. And he doesn't even pay enough to make it worth while. But he has some evil power over them that makes them "Write More."

Actually, Stephen King was on my short list of Famous People I Still Think Would Be Worth Meeting Some Day, but after writing this, I doubt that’s ever going to happen.

The premise of Stephen King holding a gun to a writer’s head came from my friend Noreen – check out her blog at Roderama. She’s also the one who got me doing this crazy poetry stuff in the first place.

As for everything else – another time. I am sad NaPoWriMo is over, but I hope this was actually the start of more writing, not the end of it. Must sleep now. More tomorrow. I mean... later today. -- WNG

And now that I've had 2-1/2 hours of sleep and three gallons of coffee...

First, FYI: I just did one more pass-through of the poem since I first published it last night to fix up some major things and take advantage of opportunities I missed. Probably should have waited until morning to post. After this, I will leave it alone for a while.

To write it, once I settled on "The Raven," (Poe + Stephen King was as perfect as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich... and made my job easier!) I kept a list of "-ore" rhymes handy. I also tried to drop in some references to Stephen King's more famous stories -- some are obvious... some might not be. I didn't want to force it. But I wanted to pay tribute somehow, since, you know, I was making Stephen King out to be a giant asshole. Which I know he isn't. (I'm envisioning legions of "Children of the Corn"-style King-worshippers amassing outside my door to sacrifice me for my blasphemy.)

My overall goal was to tell the absurd, silly story I wanted to tell, while retaining as much of  Poe's original poem -- his language, structure, rhyme scheme and spirit -- as possible. It was tricky, and for only having a few hours to do it, probably not 100% successful as a poem. But man, it was fun. And that, of course, was the whole point of this whole month. -- WNG


  1. I've created a monster.

    Bowing to this masterpiece, hiding out from Stephen King. And Poe too, as just because he's dead doesn't mean he can't come a'knocking.