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My Death -- Raymond Carver

Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1632) My Death
 If I'm lucky, I'll be wired every whichway
 in a hospital bed. Tubes running into
 my nose. But try not to be scared of me, friends!
 I'm telling you right now that this is okay.
 It's little enough to ask for at the end.
 Someone, I hope, will have phoned everyone
 to say, "Come quick, he's failing!"
 And they will come. And there will be time for me
 to bid goodbye to each of my loved ones.
 If I'm lucky, they'll step forward
 and I'll be able to see them one last time
 and take that memory with me.
 Sure, they might lay eyes on me and want to run away
 and howl. But instead, since they love me,
 they'll lift my hand and say "Courage"
 or "It's going to be all right."
 And they're right. It is all right.
 It's just fine. If you only knew how happy you've made me!
 I just hope my luck holds, and I can make
 some sign of recognition.
 Open and close my eyes as if to say,
 "Yes, I hear you. I understand you."
 I may even manage something like this:
 "I love you too. Be happy."
 I hope so! But I don't want to ask for too much.
 If I'm unlucky, as I deserve, well, I'll just
 drop over, like that, without any chance
 for farewell, or to press anyone's hand.
 Or say how much I cared for you and enjoyed
 your company all these years. In any case,
 try not to mourn for me too much. I want you to know
 I was happy when I was here.
 And remember I told you this a while ago - April 1984.
 But be glad for me if I can die in the presence
 of friends and family. If this happens, believe me,
 I came out ahead. I didn't lose this one.
-- Raymond Carver
The Roger McGough poem a few days back (Poem #1628) made me think of this
gem of a poem by Raymond Carver. I first heard of Carver thanks to an
incredible essay about him in Salman Rushdie's Imaginary Homelands - he is,
in my opinion, one of the most overlooked and underrated poets of his time.

Carver's gift, as this poem amply demonstrates, is for simplicity - his
poems are unadorned, almost casual, but they have a conversational honesty
that reminds me of Chekhov. In addition he has an uncanny ability to sharpen
the most familiar of images into poetry; his poems read almost like highly
condensed stories - a few simple lines painting an everyday scene with
incredible clarity - only at the end there's usually a line or two that will
suddenly re-imagine the picture for you, turning it into something
breathtakingly beautiful (for a particularly good exampe of this see
'Happiness' [Poem #1099]).

Carver is also one of those rare entities - a poet of ideas. His work rises
above mere images or wordplay, thrusting you into situations or thoughts
that deepen and enrich your everyday life. Most of all though (and perhaps
because of the simplicity of the writing) Carver is one of the most moving
poets I have ever read - poem after poem of his brings tears to my eyes; his
very matter of factness conveys a depth of emotion that few poets writing
today can match. And there are few better examples of this than today's
poem. It's not a hard poem to criticise, but it's a hard poem to disagree

Raymond Carver died of lung cancer in August 1988. From what I can tell, he
got his wish and died in the presence of friends and family. We should all
be so lucky.




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