Nine Ravens

(With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)


Once upon a web page I saw, that was dedicated to law,

Raven sitting on end of branch by Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Raven sitting on end of branch by Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

(I do not recall if it was blog or wiki or something more,)

While I tried to keep from snoring (face it that stuff’s kind of boring),

There came a tapping, as of someone rapping at my study door.

” ‘Probably my wife,” I mumbled, “tapping at my study door;

Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was a bleak and cold November,

The High Court’s term starting on the first Monday month before.

Desperately I wished the morrow; foolishly I sought to borrow

From Jack Daniels surcease of sorrow, sorrow caused by culture war.

Caused by the endless bickering that had been dubbed the culture war,

Discussed here nevermore.

And the monitor light glowing with new lawsuits overflowing

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now to stop the throbbing of my head, I stood there sobbing,

“It’s just the puppy trying to get in at my study door,

It must be my little puppy pawing at my study door.

That must be it; nothing more.”

Eventually I took a nip, with liquid courage got a grip,

“Whoever’s there,” I said, “I hope you don’t mind about before;

But the truth is I was… napping, when you came so gently rapping,

When you came so gently tapping, tapping at my study door.

Wasn’t really sure I heard you.” Then I opened wide the door;

Darkness there, and nothing more.

I don’t know how long I stood there, staring out at nothing but air

Questioning my sanity like so many who came before;

But there was no sound but silence, and my only sign of guidance

And the only words there spoken were the whispered words,

“Culture war?” This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the words,

“Five to four!” Just this, and nothing more.

Back into my study turning, all my heart within me burning,

Soon again I heard a banging, something louder than before,

“Huh,” I said, I thought that I’d seen something just above my flat screen.

It’s outside the study window, so this mystery I’ll explore.

Let me just chill out a minute, and this mystery explore.

“It’s the wind, and nothing more.”

So I opened up the window, and suddenly what do you know?

Right in comes these nine ravens that I had never seen before.

Not a word or gesture to me; not a single “An it please thee”;

But with mien of lord and lady, perched  beside my study door.

Perched upon a bench that was sitting inside my study door,

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Decked with feathers black as robes, sitting with patience to match Job’s,

I attempted to establish some semblance of rapport.

“An unkindness some might call you, yes, and a conspiracy too,

To be honest that’s the sort of name-calling that I deplore.

Tell me, pray, how I should know you, oh great Scions of Baltimore.”

Quoth the ravens, “Five to four.”

I was stunned at these ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though their answer little meaning, use, or relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was given help by birds within their chamber door,

Birds or beasts sitting upon their bench within their chamber door,

With such words as “five to four.”

But the ravens, having spoken, would not let that be their token,

Instead they had to further discourse on matters more and more.

Topics timely and political; both trivial and critical;

Till my rage was near biblical, “I should show you to the door!

I want none of this, please, leave me be, get out of here, no more!”

Then the birds said, “Five to four.”

There’s nothing that they won’t debate, from abortion to speech of hate

Taking their sides from established ideologies of yore.

Though they might each strut and posture, give an enigmatic gesture,

Make us wonder if the outcome might be different from before

In the end there’s no cause for surprise about the final score;

The score is 5 to 4.

But the ravens still sat judging, so with grace ill and begrudging

I sat down, tried to ignore them and work as I was before.

But one thing there was no budging,  no, never sufficient nudging

To shift the awful balance that had been previously foreswore–

That these awful birds of omen held over from the days of yore

Had doomed us with “Five to four.”

Each single word I was weighing, the game D.C.’s always playing,

Despite myself, taken in by the vile back and forth once more.

On this law there’ll be no bending, the back and forth is never ending,

Though we cry out for unity, it’s victory we look for,

But when that ugly fool’s gold is the prize that we all opt for

Then the prize is, “Five to four.”

Turning then to my oppressors, I became the new aggressor

Unleashing on them all the wrath I had pent up heretofore.

“Were you not all nine delighted when the citizens united

Or you sat in judgment o’er the case of Bush v. Gore?

Uninsured were not deplored, racial preferences galore?”

Quoth the ravens, “Five to four.”

“Jurists!” said I, “all divided!– never one, though sit united!

Whether Donkey sat or Elephant deposited before,

Determined though you are to lead us by example not at all–

In this land that’s so torn by strife– tell me truly, I implore:

What’s the chance for peace and brotherhood–tell me I implore!”

Quoth the ravens, “Five to four.”

Jurists!” said I, “still divided! Still deserve to be derided!

By that space that bends above us–by that God (that you won’t let His commandments be posted in a government building but somehow a six foot tall monument on government property is okay and how are those not blatantly conflicting rulings?) that we all adore–

Tell this soul with strife encumbered, if these days of pain are numbered,

Will the time come when we at last can put out the last flame war?

I beg you, can you tell me I will have the peace that I yearn for?”

Quoth the ravens, “Five to four.”

“Be that phrase our sign of parting, birds or fiends!” I shrieked, upstarting–

“Get thee back unto the night and to Baltimore’s polluted shores!

Leave no writ or other token of the cruel words you have spoken!

Leave my solitude unbroken!– quit the bench beside my door!

Take your damn conspiracy elsewhere and haunt me nevermore!”

Quoth the ravens, “Five to four.”

And the nation stands divided, never to be reunited,

Cursing politicians from north to south and from shore to shore,

Though we think they’ll keep us guessing, ain’t it really quite distressing

We’ve found out as Ackbar warned us that “it’s a trap!” to be sure,

We may all try to hope for change but we see forevermore

That the score stays 5 to 4.


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