And last but not least, our (optional) prompt. I call this one “Return to Spoon River,” after Edgar Lee Masters’ eminently creepy 1915 book Spoon River Anthology. The book consists of well over 100 poetic monologues, each spoken by a person buried in the cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.
Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.
Here’s my poem for today – ‘Manju- a girl I knew’. This is a tribute long due. I don’t know her second name but she died when she was ten or maybe she was eleven.
I lived in the city with my mother
and my older, unmarried sister
In half a room with little food and lesser space
Everyday was a rat race
Sorrow and troubles were all that I’d seen
and hungry was all that I’d been
My mother worked in a rich lady’s house
who paid for my sister’s school but she took her vows
Her husband joined us in our half room
And soon for me there was no room
Mother had the the saddest eyes I’d ever seen
It made me more sad than I’d ever been
One day the lady decided to leave the city
and my mother begged her to take me
She said she wanted me to have a better life
with knowledge, food and hygiene, rife
We went to the calmest village I’d ever been
and the lady’s mother was the sweetest I’d ever seen
The house my mother sent me to was a boon
and I settled in soon
They fed me well
and dressed me swell
My mother said I was prettier than I’d ever been
That I was taller and stronger than she’d ever seen
But my mother forgot that fate was no fool
It caught up with me one day after school
And as I stood by the well and talked
to the lady’s sweet mother and laughed
I felt the sickest I’d ever been
There was an explosion in my head, I saw things I’d never seen-
My dead father and grandfather
I fell to the floor, my mouth spat white lather
They beckoned me, come
I felt my limbs go numb
I saw fear in the old lady’s eyes like I’d never seen
I wished to tell her that I’d been the happiest here than I’d ever been
And to my mother I wished to say
‘ Dear mother, you gave me the best life by sending me away.
Please don’t cry, I love you
more than I ever told you.’
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