Wednesday, November 22, 2006


(Photo grabbed from a live Web cam this afternoon on the Port Angeles, Washington Web site. This is what it looked like this morning at 11:29 a.m. in Raymond Carver's world.)

I don't think Robert Altman ever really burrowed into Raymond Carver-- Short Cuts was an Altman movie (and not one of his good ones, in my minority opinion) grafted onto a skeleton bolted together from Carver's work. But today, as I contemplate the Thanksgiving holiday with the loss of a great film artist still looming in my consciousness, I'd like to give thanks by posting two evocative poems by Carver, another great artist lost to us before his work was really finished-- poems which find the longing and pain and enthralling beauty in the commonplace, poems that paint a picture of a beautiful part of the world that was so much a part of Carver's artistic vision as a poet and storyteller, a part of the world that had nothing to do with Short Cuts.



So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.


"This Morning"

This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarcely a ripple. Calm. I dressed and went
for a walk -- determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent-over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted. Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely. All bathed in a pure
cold light. But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander. I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else. I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other. (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong -- duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife. All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day. What
I've trampled on in order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else. I know I did.
For when I turned back i didn't know
where I was. Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees. And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.



Anonymous said...

This is the second time in the past month or so that I've suddenly realized how much I enjoy poetry, and wondered why I hardly ever read it (or even better, go hear it read). The first time was last month at a booksellers' meeting in Portland, at a dinner where various authors rotated among the tables and talked with us about their books. One author who sat next to me was Tess Gallagher, and she read a poem about a bird which affected me profoundly, and it was so simple and clear--very much like the poems you have here. Anyway, she kept talking about "Ray" liked this, and before "Ray" died, etc., and finally I remembered that "Ray" was Raymond Carver, who was Gallagher's husband. So, I think I've discovered that I am a fan of both of their poetry! Still don't like "Short Cuts", though.

I'm thankful for the nice poetic interlude--and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, my friend.

Anonymous said...

We have had an argument about this in the past so I won't attempt to change your mind, I just want to say for the record that I strongly disagree with you about "Short Cuts". I have only read a tiny little bit of Raymond Carver, but ultimately a moviegoer/film watcher/audience participant has to distance the film from its source material, especially in a case like this where the source is only loosely involved with the final product.

I remember when I talked about how much I disliked "V for Vendetta", and in retrospect I admit that my dislike probably came from the fact that I couldn't get over my sky high expectations for one of my favorite stories. I was probably wrong then, though not about how stupid that scene of Evey kissing V's mask was, and I think you similarly distracted from the film itself now. "Short cuts" is a remarkable film that only someone like Altman could have made and I think your love of your city and Raymond Carver makes you see it as a hard hearted and mean spirited movie, and not the incredibly sensitive look at violence, fear and misogyny that it is. There are so many gorgeous scenes that stick with you, Jack Lemmon's speech about abandoning his child, the jubilation at surviving "the big One", Julianne Moore's firecr... er naturally hot headed nature... I don't know, I just can't believe that you don't like this movie. At the very least, I think you should give it another try one of these days.

P.S. I realize the point was the poetry, not "Short Cuts" and I agree, very moving stuff. Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

Loved the poetry, Dennis. So simple, so true. Thanks for posting this.