Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Hero, Willie Metcalf

This is from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. I highly recommend reading it again and again.

It is a collection of poems - statements from all the people buried in Spoon River Cemetary. Willie Metcalf has been my hero since I first read this nearly 40 years ago.

I was Willie Metcalf.
They used to call me "Doc 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 being from the Earth.
I used to lose myself, as if in sleep,
By lying with eyes half-open in the woods.
Sometimes I talked 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 cemetary
The dead people gathered all about me,
And grew still, like a congregation in silent prayer.
I never knew whether I was part of the Earth
With flowers growing in me, or whether I walked-
Now I know.


  1. I understand why this is one (if not the one) of your favorites. While he was alive, he felt that he was part of the Earth, the animate and the non, but he had doubts. It wasn't until he was lying in his grave that he knew it was true—with flowers growing in him.

    How absolutely wonderful!

  2. Oh, it is wonderful. Willie was a simple soul who understood so much more than most. Gotta love that. You really have to read the whole anthology to understand the individuals totally.
    BTW, Spoon River isn't far from where I grew up. It's a beautiful area.