A Letter from Sam Shepard to Johnny Dark



Photos courtesy of the authors and The Wittliff Collection.

From a September 4, 1990 letter from Sam Shepard, who died last week at the age of seventy-three, to Johnny Dark. Shepard and Dark’s forty-plus years of correspondence is collected in Two Prospectors, which was named after their unfinished, cowritten play.


Dear John,

Funny I should get your letter on the very same day I’m cleaning out one of my many neglected filing cabinets—full of old letters, manuscripts, notes—piles of papers & I came across your huge book of notes you sent me of our endless dialogues—other letters from you, dating clear back to England & a great black & white photo of the two of us destroying the front porch in Nova Scotia—me leaping off the steps with a hammer & you in the background with bushy black hair like the early Bob Dylan—we look like we’re in High School or something & I thought what a great friendship it was! Truly great. I miss the very same things—just riding around in the white Chevy talking about any old thing that floated into our demented imaginations & then, momentarily, actually becoming characters & acting them out as we wandered through grocery stores or the streets of San Francisco or San Rafael on a brisk stoned afternoon. Somehow, it always reminded me of drunken Irish characters from Flann O’Brien—stumbling from bar to bar, spouting poetry, singing ballads & making up outrageous stories—always in trouble with women & ultimately pathetically alone. I hope some way we can again strike up our own private dialogues—hysterically funny to us only—maybe as very old men on a bus stop or a park bench in some place like Lincoln, Nebraska where we’re equally lost.

I, too, have been going through the same heart-wrenching stuff you describe—(maybe not the same but with the same results) & each time I come out the other end of it I think—aah, at last it’s over—I can get on with my life again but it keeps coming back. I’m convinced now it has nothing to do with women although I make myself believe I wouldn’t feel this way if it wasn’t for “her.”

Writing is such a pain in the ass. I’d like to just talk & maybe walk that’s about it. I’m exhausted from it all. Hope we can find a way to meet up & have a good time one of these days. It would be great to see you. Love to Scarlett & my ex-wife if you see her. And tell my son to call me—I’ve left messages all over hell for him. I remember the last words my Dad ever wrote me in a letter—“See you in my dreams.” How ’bout that.

Your on-going amigo,



From Two Prospectors. © 2013 by Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark; published by the University of Texas Press.