Dennis Maulsby


Traveled a far piece to be here.
My name on the fancy granite headstone
You’re dedicatin’ today – but I’m not under it.
Ran away at age fifteen “to see the elephant.”
Joined the Union forces as a drummer boy.
In Spoon River I was known as the village idiot.
Adults looked away or cussed me,
My employers beat me;
The boys threw stones and the girls…
In the army my drum controlled thousands of soldiers –
Led them into desperate battles.
Once, my drum smashed by a shell,
I waived the flag to rally the regiment.
Of an evening, my comrades taught me to read:
Newspapers, dime novels, Harper’s and the stories
Of old Macbeth and Jean Valjean.
My fellow veterans become my first and best friends.
I stayed to tend their wounds outside Chattanooga,
And was captured by the Rebs.
Consumption sucked out my life in Andersonville prison.
Reckon I earned a place there,
My grave among the rows of hallowed men.
Now, this here monument –
To honor my service,
Or to cover your abuse?

Author’s Note: Winner of the First Place Adult Division prize in the Oak Hill Poetry Competition 2002, written in the style of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology”