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Ray -- Hayden Carruth

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.
-- Hayden Carruth
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.

27 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Martin DeMello said...

Just reread this while randompoemsurfing. I don't know why it didn't move me as
powerfully the first time I read it - maybe it was the mood I was in then;
maybe it's the mood I'm in now. Either way, I'm grateful for the experience.
Amazing poem.

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