Monday, April 22, 2013

S - Spoon River Anthology


My maternal grandmother was born in 1915.  That same year a collection of poems by Edgar Lee Masters appeared in an edition called Spoon River Anthology.  The opening piece is a haunting whisper of the inhabitants of a graveyard.  Each poem thereafter is from the point of view of a deceased resident of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.

The ghosts.

An anthology of ghost poems.

Together they create a tapestry of a way of life.

In 1963 Charles Aidman adapted this collection into a stage play.

Twenty year later I appeared in a version produced at the University of Texas at Dallas.

I watched the videotape of that production a little over a year ago for the second time in nearly thirty years.

Not for the nostalgia.  Well, not entirely.  I loved the beauty and pathos and humor of the piece. And yeah, for the amazing work of the cast and crew who staged it.  So nostalgia touched my heart as well.

The complete piece in written form is just as riveting.  Read the story of Pauline Barrett, life and death in a single poem.  Then inhale the sadness of Willard Fluke, followed by the uplifting, transcendent lines of his daughter Lois Spears.

Read all of the poems if you can.

Truly, of all the productions I did over the years, Spoon River Anthology ranks as my favorite.

Of the roles I played in this production (and I loved them all), the boy who lived in the livery stable, Willie Metcalf, touched me the most.

Here it is.

I was Willie Metcalf.
They used to call me "Doctor Meyers"
Because, they said, I looked like him.
And he was my father, according to Jack McGuire.
I lived in the livery stable,
Sleeping on the floor
Side by side with Roger Baughman's bulldog,
Or sometimes in a stall.
I could crawl between the legs of the wildest horses
Without getting kicked -- we knew each other.
On spring days I tramped through the country
To get the feeling, which I sometimes lost,
That I was not a separate thing from the earth.
I used to lose myself, as if in sleep,
By lying with eyes half-open in the woods.
Sometimes I taIked with animals -- even toads and snakes --
Anything that had an eye to look into.
Once I saw a stone in the sunshine
Trying to turn into jelly.
In April days in this cemetery
The dead people gathered all about me,
And grew still, like a congregation in silent prayer.
I never knew whether I was a part of the earth
With flowers growing in me, or whether I walked --
Now I know.

Such a child of nature.

I was at birth, but didn't have the courage to accept it as Willie did.  I wanted to be a part of the real world. 

And so I am.

I haven't acted in a number of years, but I write stories I hope people will, one day, want to read.

A little over a year ago I looked in the mirror, at the bald-headed middle-aged man I'd become, and asked what would I want to say at the end of it all, that day I answered ...

"I was Willie Metcalf."


  1. That was rivetting...I've got to look this up.

  2. A deep and touching way to start the week.

    Are you on the Twitter, Rocky?
    Some Dark Romantic

  3. Thanks everyone! And Mina, I am. Rocky@RockyHatley


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