When Poe was three-years-old, he watched his actress mother, Eliza, die of pneumonia. Originally a one-man play commissioned from Ashe by the New York City Parks Department/Historic House Trust, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is now a book available from Amazon.
I sat upon the floor, my back against the damp and dripping wall in that dark room hour after hour, quieting my little sister with her rag of gin. And watching my mother sleep.
Once her eyes opened, no longer like shining lakes but like the night, impenetrably deep, lost in visions that the dreamer only knows, of palaces and palanquins and dry, warm climes where Siroc winds evaporate the very leaves to brittle filigree upon the trees. Where water is congealed to jewels.
Not knowing me, she begged me for a drink of water as if I were a stranger by a desert well. I brought her water and she drank like one who has been parched by inward fire until seas of liquid cannot quench the flames.
Only once, after that, did her eyes open and she knew me. That once she turned toward me as I sat in my corner. She gazed at me and said, Eddy, love me always. Please forgive me!
I sat helpless through the night. I heard the fingers plucking at the scanty sheet, the rattle of the last breath bubbling through the throat as the lungs gripped in their last spasms. I sat, my baby sister in my arms, and wept silently so that I would not wake her.
In the morning mother lay like a sleeper made of wax, pale with a blue-gray tinge that seemed to me most beautiful. Most like the Juliet she played, bowered in roses on her tomb. But oh where was the friar with the potion that would wake her? I knew he would not come.