With Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 21st, 2017

Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/source/theeducatorsmarket.com/

The year’s cash flow for many bookstores dips just after summer and before the holidays. This is unfortunate timing. Fall is the biggest book-release season, so by the end of October and November, we have received hundreds of new books and thus owe a boatload of money to publishers in the two months *before* holiday shopping picks up. As I sat in my office paying bills the other day, a line from Poe’s famous poem, “The Bells,” began rolling through my brain, but instead of Poe’s “tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells,” I had a slightly different take. With apologies to our lyrical pal, Edgar A., here goes:

The Bills (dedicated to my colleagues in bookselling)

I. FALL

Hear the rustle of the bills—
Stacks of bills!
What a world of penury their pattering foretells!
How they crinkle, crinkle, crinkle,
In the office’s bright light!
While the halogens show wrinkles
And the calculator twinkles
With a digital delight;
Keeping score, score, score,
Of the statements we deplore,
And the tab- tab- tabulation that can spell a small store’s ills
due to bills, bills, bills, bills,
Bills, bills, bills —
Due to hideous Net 30 terms of bills.

II. DECEMBER

Hear the busy cash drawer ding
Golden ding!
What a world of happiness its frequency can sing!
Through the roar of retail day
How that ping can pave the way
To a season full of books
And lovely gifts,
While the customers in nooks
Pore through pages new and classic as they look
(Don’t shoplift!)
Oh, the cash wrap counter thrills!
What a ping of ecstasy that little ring instills!
How it trills!
How it fills
Up our spirits! How it spills
Into paying all those bills,
Into timely, comely paying
Of the bills, bills, bills,
Of the bills, bills, bills, bills,
Bills, bills, bills —
Into timely, comely paying of the bills!

III. WINTER / SPRING

See the big December bills —
Horrid bills!
What tale of terror, now, their magnitude foretells!
In the startled office night
How they telegraph our fright!
All too numerous to count
There’s a harrowing amount
Piling up.
Like the snowflakes heaped in drifts upon the hills outside our door,
Or the countless specks of cinnamon in cider that we’ve poured,
Heaping higher, higher, higher
We’ve a desperate desire
And a resolute endeavor
Now—now to pay or never,
From the bank we’re dialing up.
Oh, the bills, bills, bills!
They are such a bitter pill
To taste!
How they stack, and mass, and mound,
As our furrowed brow we pound,
And we rummage for the checkbook we’ve misplaced.
Yet the eye, it fully knows,
By the crumple,
And the rumple,
What no bookkeepers disclose;
Yet, the ear distinctly tells,
In the grumbling
And the bumbling
How our ledger sinks and swells,
With the sinking or the swelling in the balance of the bills—
Of the bills—
Of the bills, bills, bills, bills,
Bills, bills, bills–
In the rising and the redress of the bills!

IV. SUMMER

See the manageable bills—
Summer bills!
What a sense of pleasant balances this sunny time instills!
In the busy buzzing days
Worries vanish in the blaze
Of the hustle and the bustle of the sales!
Now everybody reads
Every family member needs
A great tale.
All those readers—ah, the readers—
They’re our industry’s shy leaders,
And our Grail.
And their poring poring poring
Over online sales prevails
Sending bookseller hearts soaring
And our bank accounts are hale.
But the bills, oh they are scheming—
During summer they are dreaming
Of their due—
And they stealthily yearn
For the pennies that we
Earn—
The triumph of the bills!
And their paper bosoms thrill
(Though they’ll end up in landfill)
That we’re heading up that hill
Keeping score, score, score,
of the statements we deplore—
Oh, the tyranny of bills—
Of the bills:
Keeping score, score, score,
of the statements we abhor—
Oh, the endlessness of bills,
Of the bills, bills, bills—
The eternity of bills;
Keeping score, score, score,
As we still, still, still,
Pay these statements evermore,
Oh, the cruelty of bills,
Of these bills, bills, bills,
The ubiquity of bills,
Of these bills, bills, bills, bills,
Bills, bills, bills —
All these bills we always will be paying for.

****

For the real poem, please visit the wonderful resource that is Poets.org.
“The Bells” version I used to play off was from that site, and is from The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *