Stephen Metcalfe Words

Stephen Metcalfe is a playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. His plays have been produced Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally and he has worked for most major production companies in Hollywood.  He is the author of three novels.  THE TRAGIC AGE, was published by St. Martin’s Press in March of 2015. and THE PRACTICAL NAVIGATOR was released by St. Martin’s in August 2016.   His novel, ATTACHMENT PATTERNS, will be released by Austin-Macauley Publishers in late 2022.  He is an Associate Artist at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and has taught playwriting and screenwriting at University of California San Diego, San Diego State University and The University of San Diego. — About Stephen Metcalfe


  • Poem Hunter

    As is often the case (and I’m good at it), I have done something wrong headed, blind and/or stupid.  Probably all four.  That I have unsuspectingly done this makes no difference.  I am dealing with the consequences. What have I done, you ask?   I have inadvertently and unknowingly gotten myself on an internet mailing  list.  Every day, sometimes twice, an e-mail winds up in my mailbox.   It is from Poem  When opened it will reveal a “classic” poem for my reading pleasure.  Which means I will have to read it.  And digest it.  And as often as not, too often in fact, not enjoy it.   

    Why do I not put Poem on my junk mail list?   Because I am, by profession and fate, a writer.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I have, at times, even taught writing which is like a clown teaching someone to drive funny cars.  As a writer and a “teacher” I feel I should like poetry.

    (As the lovely wife always tells me, there are no shoulds.  This is usually before she asks me to do something I don’t wish to do.  It’s sort of like saying, “you don’t have to do this, but…..”)

    This morning I got hit with this.

    Will Our Love Succeed?

    I know deep down you’re good

    That much is understood

    Honest and hard working

    I’m proud to wear your ring

    But my heart does not sing

    You still bring me flowers

    I know what’s yours is ours

    You have never said no

    Even when it’s for show

    But you don’t make me glow

    You let me have my way

    Yesterday and today

    Trying to make it right

    Each and every night

    But I don’t feel delight

    You’re there when I need you

    You are solid and true

    Everything that I need

    You always take the lead

    But will our love succeed?

    Right, night, you, true, need, lead?  Well, yes, of course – poems are supposed to rhyme, aren’t they.

    Yesterday begat this:

    Five Ways To Kill A Man

    There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.  You can make him carry a plank of wood to the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this  properly you require a crowd of people wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one man to hammer the nails home.

    Or you can take a length of steel, shaped and chased in a traditional way, and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears. But for this you need white horses, English trees, men with bows and arrows, at least two flags, a prince, and a castle to hold your banquet in.

     Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind blows, blow gas at him. But then you need a mile of mud sliced through with ditches, not to mention black boots, bomb craters, more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs and some round hats made of steel.   

     In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly miles above your victim and dispose of him by pressing one small switch. All you then require is an ocean to separate you, two systems of government, a nation’s scientists, several factories, a psychopath and land that no-one needs for several years.

    These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

    Hmmm.  What to make of this.  Jesus, an English Knight, World War I and the atomic bomb.  The middle of the twentieth century – that would be 1950.  Yes, I suppose the adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and the cumbersome three martini lunch could kill you.  If I’m not mistaken this is called dramatic irony.

    I would suggest this is not so much a poem as it is a treatment for a multi-part Netflix series.  Blackadder with no sense of humor.  Just add vampires.

    As did this poet:

    A Desperate Cry

    God’s creation

    Blessed to be born in this world

    We all may feel that’s the truth

    Until I read this-

    An abandoned baby

    Malnourished, hardly an year old

    Famine struck

    Skin and bone

    No food to feed

    No water to have

    Stranded alone in barren land

    Helpless eyes staring straight

    Standing legs more like a bamboo stick

    Cerebral neurons popping out

    Veins struggling to carry weak blood

    Oh God! Nothing more I can add…

    My heart is not strong enough

    To read the rest-

    A vampire vulture

    Sitting beside and

    Looking eager to end its hunger!

    I pray! Save these innocents!

    Let this never happen again!

    Hmm.  I’m suddenly reminded of a stint thirty-some years ago at Actors Theater of Louisville where one night in bar, a young woman got up and announced that she and a friend were going to do an “improvised dramatic reading” with accompaniment on bongo drums.  As I’m very much for the soul expressing itself, I quickly ordered a triple boilermaker.  I told the waitress to “keep them coming”.

    I should mention that I have my tried own hand at writing poetry.  In college.   At the behest of a teacher.  He said all poets are mad.  Being mad, I decided to write some poems.   I actually saved some of them to remind myself that there is such a thing as humility.  This is an example.  

    (Please note how in all “good” poetry, a simple sentence is broken up into multiple lines.   I think this is to suggest abstract thinking.   Or perhaps to disguise the fact that what is in truth a simple paragraph, is in fact, a poem.)

    The Frost Giants Rolled Out of Jottenheim

    Pissed as hell and struggling with each other

    Screaming their asses off.

    My mother,

    Danish in descent

    With the Viking spirit of a Spaniard,

    Issued small craft warnings and declared the harbor closed.

    As she headed to bed to ride out the storm

    Thor and I,

    Hammers in hand,

    Ventured forth, red beards wrapped angrily around our necks,

    To show the multi-headed invaders we weren’t afraid.

    They obviously weren’t impressed.

    They laughed so hard they shook themselves into little pieces

    Which they unceremoniously dumped on our heads,

    The cold blooded bastards.

    Thor and I,

    Somewhat embarrassed at our poor showing,

    Trucked back over the bridge to Valhalla

    To get righteously drunk on mead

    The feasting and the boasting got so riotous,

    We woke my mother up.

    That  was a real twilight of the Gods.

    Ah, the wit.  Oh, the archetypal, mythological references.  I’m sending it to The New Yorker.   Okay.  Serious.  (I hate serious but…)  I leave you with this. 

    To the lovely wife who puts up with me (barely):

    I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz

    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.

    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

    I love you as the plant that never blooms

    but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;

    thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,

    risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.

    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

    So I love you because I know no other way

    Than this: where I does not exist, nor you,

    so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,

    so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

        ———-Love Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda**

    Sometimes you just have to like poetry.

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