Spoon River Poems

I like to toy with the classics. I’ve rewritten several famous poems (see my Red Wheelbarrow poem after W.C. Williams, my Grasshopper poem after E.E. Cummings, and my Wasteland poem after T.S. Eliot).

These are poems that fit into Edgar Lee Master’s imminently readable Spoon River Anthology. The Spoon River is, to quote from the wiki, “a collection of short free-form poems that collectively describe the life of the fictional small town of Spoon River… Each poem is an epitaph of a dead citizen, delivered by the dead themselves. They speak about the sorts of things one might expect: some recite their histories and turning points, others make observations of life from the outside, and petty ones complain of the treatment of their graves, while few tell how they really died. Speaking without reason to lie or fear the consequences, they construct a picture of life in their town that is shorn of façades. The interplay of various villagers forms a gripping, if not pretty, whole.”

Here are my offerings:

 

SIMON STYLES

I ought not have struggled
when they took Grandfather’s watch.
At the time it was right
but twice a day. I died knowing
my son would share my recklessness.
I gave them every dime and even
my new hat, but refused the heirloom
I loved the most. I died for it
before the golden chain
was ripped from my prideful hand.

 

 

GERTRUDE GARLAND

I loved my bird the most,
my cockatoo. I called him Carlo.
Mr Garland’s flitting eye left years back.
Sure, his wings were clipped, but
he never went further than the chair
in the parlor. Mostly from his perch
to the couch and never far from my shoulder.
He never entered my bedroom. I kept
my eye on him and that awful calico cat,
strutting her stuff down the street,
mewling her obscene hunger.
As often as I could I’d lock him
in his cage to keep him safe
from that nasty cat.

 

ELMORE ROSE

You were a bolt from the blue,
a blinding light on earth.
I wrote five letters weekly
professing my love. I kept them
in my chester drawers too fearful to send them
till one day I wrote the greatest line I ever wrote.
I ran too swiftly across the street, loveblind,
and was struck by a speeding car.
Imagine my unbroken joy when I looked up
and saw you behind the wheel
tearful at the passing of my life.

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