13 August 2014

War, Jail, and a Woman (Spoon River Epitaphs)

A sweet co-worker recently introduced me to Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, a collection of free-form poems written as epitaphs for deceased residents of a small town. S graciously lent me a copy of the book, and I have since found an online edition. Though these epitaphs are fictional, I hope you'll permit me to share some of my favorites with you here.

Battle of Missionary Ridge McCormick HarvestingKnowlt Hoheimer (pg. 26)
I WAS THE first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
Instead of running away and joining the army.
Rather a thousand times the county jail
Than to lie under this marble figure with wings,
And this granite pedestal
Bearing the words, "Pro Patria."
What do they mean, anyway?
[Pro Patria is a Latin phrase that translates to 'for one's country.' Apparently, "Knowlt" had other reasons for joining the Army. But is the reason typed above, or below?]

Image via VintageKin.com .
Lydia Puckett (pg. 27)
KNOWLT HOHEIMER RAN away to the war
The day before Curl Trenary
Swore out a warrant through Justice Arnett
For stealing hogs.
But that's not the reason he turned a soldier.
He caught me running with Lucius Atherton.
We quarreled and I told him never again
To cross my path.
Then he stole the hogs and went to the war --
Back of every soldier is a woman.

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