Celebrate National Poetry Month — here is “Fletcher McGee,” from Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.”
Below it are two photos of Mary Washington College’s outdoor amphitheater. (Alum Janet Walbroehl Winston took the photos; Russell Morgan is pictured.) Many, many moons ago, I was cast in an outdoor production of “Spoon River” as a Freshman. “Fletcher McGee” was one of the roles I portrayed. I was not Laurence Olivier. After our first performance, one classmate advised me, “Stop overacting.” You kinda don’t get much more candid than that, or concise.
Oh, well. I still had fun. I have wonderful memories of early Autumn evenings, eating cafeteria cheeseburgers and fish sandwiches, wearing vintage costumes and rehearsing lines with the other 19-year-old kids. And that amphitheater was a beautiful place among those tall, overarching Fall trees, even if it was in a state of disrepair even then.
After I die, if I wind up speaking like the ghosts in Masters’ “Spoon River,” maybe that’ll be the place I will choose to haunt.
She took my strength by minutes,
She took my life by hours,
She drained me like a fevered moon
That saps the spinning world.
The days went by like shadows,
The minutes wheeled like stars.
She took the pity from my heart,
And made it into smiles.
She was a hunk of sculptor's clay,
My secret thoughts were fingers:
They flew behind her pensive brow
And lined it deep with pain.
They set the lips, and sagged the cheeks,
And drooped the eye with sorrow.
My soul had entered in the clay,
Fighting like seven devils.
It was not mine, it was not hers;
She held it, but its struggles
Modeled a face she hated,
And a face I feared to see.
I beat the windows, shook the bolts.
I hid me in a corner
And then she died and haunted me,
And hunted me for life.