Lawrence Raab

So Much More Mournful than Before
May 9, 2014 Raab Lawrence

So Much More Mournful than Before


This morning, remembering the end

of an unpleasant dream, it seemed important

to think about Edgar Allan Poe.

Was he really afraid of being buried alive?

Or had he figured out exactly

how nervous he could make us?


He was always burying something

that wouldn’t stay buried, or walling up

what he’d have to face when that wall

got torn down.  But maybe Poe


was only a rhyme at the edge of my dream,

the way one thing connects to another

until it floats away: rows of beans,

flowers of evil.  Now it’s evening

and I’m listening to Joe Lovano playing

a song called “I Have the Room Above Her,”


which feels sweet enough until the title

makes me think of Roderick Usher listening

to his sister waking up in the tomb.

Oh, it was all preventable, everything they did,


but it felt inevitable, which is how

peoples’ lives unfold in a well-made story.

We see what they don’t, and sometimes

we think of ourselves.

What should I be afraid of?


Do I want to know?  Perhaps that dream

was trying to keep the answer hidden, and now

it’s gone, so I can’t explain why I thought of Poe

and all his extravagant disguises,

or why, as the song ends, Lovano sounds

so much more mournful than before.

Lawrence Raab is the author of ten books of poems, including Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts (Tupelo, 2015), which was longlisted for the National Book Award and named one of the Ten Best Poetry Books of 2015 by The New York Times, and What We Don’t Know About Each Other (Penguin, 1993), a winner of the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the 1993 National Book Award. His latest collection is April at the Ruins (Tupelo, 2022). Why Don’t We Say What We Mean?, essays about poetry, appeared in 2016. He is the Harry C. Payne Professor of Poetry Emeritus at Williams College.