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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

230. Zilpha Marsh

AT four o’clock in late October

I sat alone in the country school-house

Back from the road ’mid stricken fields,

And an eddy of wind blew leaves on the pane,

And crooned in the flue of the cannon-stove,

With its open door blurring the shadows

With the spectral glow of a dying fire.

In an idle mood I was running the planchette—

All at once my wrist grew limp,

And my hand moved rapidly over the board,

Till the name of “Charles Guiteau” was spelled,

Who threatened to materialize before me.

I rose and fled from the room bare-headed

Into the dusk, afraid of my gift.

And after that the spirits swarmed—

Chaucer, Cæsar, Poe and Marlowe,

Cleopatra and Mrs. Surrat—

Wherever I went, with messages,—

Mere trifling twaddle, Spoon River agreed.

You talk nonsense to children, don’t you?

And suppose I see what you never saw

And never heard of and have no word for,

I must talk nonsense when you ask me

What it is I see!