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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #33

Design for poster and cover of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris). Written by Edgar Allan Poe (American, Boston, MA 1809–1849 Baltimore, MD). Translated by Stéphane Mallarmé (French, 1842–1898). 1875. Transfer lithograph on

simili-parchment. 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 in. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

King of Candor

The raven is wounded

by the story that dismisses

his story with us. Perched

on a branch above

in focused stillness.

How does he know

what is true, what isn’t?

How does he sense

what we will believe

so he may trick us? Like I

might trick my starving

belly into believing the fresh

blueberry jam is not tantalizing,

would not taste delicious,

or stop my yearning hunger.

The raven wears the crown

truth begged him to grasp,

raise, slip invisible onto his head.

One cannot make jokes,

play pranks, laugh at others,

make others laugh at themselves,

without knowing what is true.

And ravens, wisdom givers,

their stand-ins, know

the persistence of truth.

That it cannot be escaped.

That it can wound, conquer,

divert, destroy, or save.

The raven knows inside

its body when it takes

flight how air upholds.

The raven on highest branch

now observing, is taking

truth in with each breath.

Pinning truth with needle-

vision. Alerting the world with

every squawk. Tricking us into

accepting truth's company.

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