Ode to the Man who Lives Upstairs is a poem based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Tell-Tale Heart. I’ve written it (more or less) in the format of an ode, in vague parody of John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn: the first two lines of each of the three stanzas are an echo of those of his first, fourth, and fifth.
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ODE TO THE MAN WHO LIVES UPSTAIRS
You grisly harbinger of cruel redress,
You hapless dupe of unrelenting Fate,
Why do you cause me ever to obsess,
In fretful vigilance, to lie and wait?
It is none other than your Evil Eye
That swims within an ocean milky white
Projecting like a kind of crystal ball,
The lure of which I feel unfit to try;
Yet, whether it be wrong or it be right,
To its surcease, I must surrender all.
Is this me coming to the sacrifice?
To your dark altar, even as you sleep?
Have I considered what might be the price?
The pain of consequences that run deep?
Not I! For now my blood is on the rise…
And so, I linger at your door and peer,
And as I shine my lantern on your Eye,
I contemplate your moment of demise;
When in your breath I hear the mark of fear,
With fierce intent, into your room I fly!
O Altered Shape! Cramped Attitude! In bits…
you sleep now underneath my parlour floor;
And so am I obliged to keep my wits,
With uniformed respondents at my door.
Composed, I ask them in to have some tea,
To sit atop the very place you lie,
And all is well ’til my heart starts to beat
So brashly, I am sure that all can see;
It racks me so that I am forced to cry
And indicate the grave beneath my feet.
Read Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of the Heart, a discussion of this story and its author.