Guest poem submitted by David Wright:
(Poem #774) Ray
How many guys are sitting at their kitchen tables right now, one-thirty in the morning, this same time, eating a piece of pie? - that's what I wondered. A big piece of pie, because I'd just finished reading Ray's last book. Not good pie, not like my mother or my wife could've made, but an ordinary pie I'd just bought, being alone, at the Tops Market two hours ago. And how many had water in their eyes? Because of Ray's book, and especially those last poems written after he knew: the one about the doctor telling him, the one where he and Tess go down to Reno to get married before it happens and shoot some craps on the dark baize tables, the one called "After-Glow" about the little light in the sky after the sun sets. I can just hear him, if he were still here and this were somebody else's book, saying, "Jesus," saying, "This is the saddest son of a bitch of a book I've read in a long time," saying "A real long time." And the thing is, he knew we'd be saying this about his book, he could just hear us saying it, and in some part of him he was glad! He really was. What crazies we writers are, our heads full of language like buckets of minnows standing on the moonlight on a dock. Ray was a good writer, a wonderful writer, and his poems are good, most of them, and they made me cry, there at my kitchen table with my head down, me, a sixty-seven-year-old galoot, an old fool because all old men are fools, they have to be, shoveling big jagged chunks of that ordinary pie into my mouth, and the water falling from my eyes onto that pie, the plate, my hand, little speckles shining into the light, brightening the colors, and I ate that goddamn pie, and it tasted good to me.
I love Raymond Carver's writing and I love Hayden Carruth's writing, and this is such a fitting eulogy, their sensibilities are so similar. I'm not sure I buy the initial "How many guys ... that's what I'm wondering," as a device, but I don't care. This image of the man, the old man, sitting up late at night, crying and shoveling in pie, just gets me. I can hear it, the noises of the plate and fork, the breathing, the weeping, the eating. There's a haiku by Ryusui - in a translation by R. H. Blyth it goes: The lost child Crying, crying, but still Catching the fire-flies. That sublimely human moment when grief and the forgetfulness of grief are there together. Just precious, and funny, too. One of the things I enjoy about this poem that I don't like about some other confessions is his deadly serious appreciation of pain doesn't eclipse his humor. Like in the line "finished reading Ray's last book. Not good pie,". The book he is referring to in the poem is "A New Path to the Waterfall", a volume of poetry the Raymond Carver wrote at the very end of his life. All of his poetry has since been collected into a single volume, "All of Us", which you probably ought to rush right out and buy. Carruth's own stuff has recently been sliced and diced into some nice collections as well. The Academy of American Poets website (http://www.poets.org/) has a page on Carruth which links to some other content on the web. David. PS. Oh, one more little poem, also by Carruth: "The Last Poem In The World" Would I write it, if I could? Bet your glitzy ass I would. -- Hayden Carruth PPS. Minstrels Poem #684, "Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey", Hayden Carruth.