Prose, Grades 10 – 12: First Place
The Raven, the Raindrop and the Refrain — Baila Elkin
Whilst walking on the road in search of that elusive maiden, Experience, I passed many sights and sounds. Presently I met a man, from whom melancholy emanated in gloomy waves.
“Where are you going?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, but I posed the question nonetheless.
“In search,” said he, his eyes growing distant, “of a place I know exists not, and a maiden whom I shall never see.”
He passed on and I observed a raven, around whose neck a bell was strung, following him all the while. Within the hour I chanced upon a young woman, dressed all in white. A secret smile lay slantwise on her face, and her eyes crinkled with it.
“Why do you smile?”
In response, she pulled out a necklace made of raindrops. At my gasp, she put a finger to her lips. “They are not pearls,” was all she would say. She, too, passed on.
Decked in the garb of a worker, a man some way up the winding road sang lustily.
“Of what is your tune?” I was out of breath owing to my mad dash up to him.
“My thread has caught!” he exalted. “Gossamer turned concrete, and now I rejoice with all life.”
“Know you anything of the two souls past?” Finding a frank honesty about his company, I posed the query without embarrassment.
“Ah, them,” he waved his hand. “Brilliant, the both of them, but too romantic for my taste. The first is called Poe, and he pours out his soul in verse. Flowing like a river, his cadence sweeps you along, raising and dropping your emotions at each wave. His mind is filled with fantastic images, which, while bearing his point well, have no basis in reality. Casting dark shadows, his ravens swoop and plunge and tail him constantly as he walks in rhythm to the bells that play out his every emotion. They are most often knells of death.
“The white maiden you passed is Emily. All her life she was pushed down and now must crawl out at a slant. The ‘pearls’ she wears are illusory, but who is anyone to stop so pleasant an illusion? Like Poe, she would rather the shifting shadows be her home.
“I, on the other hand, celebrate the firm realities. Laud the everyman, I say, for he shares his Divine spark with you. Containing so much in authenticity, life creates no gap for me that fantasy must fill. The poignant sadness of a captain lying senseless, gone at just the point when his victory is acclaimed, is so full of emotion I have no need to invent his ghost, or to call upon some mystic creature to evoke the feeling.
“Hear me well, there is place for both. Not daring to diminish masters at their art, I support the two whom you met before me. We do not strive to outdo one another; rather, our differences lend spice to both. Veracity and fancy, both are needed, both are lovely.” As I walked away, my head swimming with all these new revelations, I suddenly remembered. “Who are you?” I called at the retreating figure.
“Whitman,” his reply wafted to me on the notes of the song he was still singing with all his heart and soul.