Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waking Before Sunrise

This morning, just before daybreak, I was up and in my kitchen, working on losing some nameless, unrecognizable feeling I'd been carrying around the last few days. While the coffee brewed, I opened the drapes, ready for the light to show its face. Buddy moved from the bedroom floor to the green chair in the living room and then went back to snoozing. I sat at the table, picked up a book of poetry, then opened it at random to see what it had to say. The poet was Raymond Carver, and the book was his collected poems entitled,  All of Us.  This is what I found on page 157:


Waking before sunrise, in a house not my own,
I hear a radio playing in the kitchen.
Mist drifts outside the window while
a woman's voice gives the news, and then the weather.
I hear that, and the sound of meat
as it connects with hot grease in the pan.
I listen some more, half asleep. It's like,
but not like, when I was a child and lay in bed,
in the dark, listening to a woman crying,
and a man's voice raised in anger, or despair,
the radio playing all the while. Instead,
what I hear this morning is the man of the house
saying "How many summers do I have left?
Answer me that."  There's no answer from the woman
that I can hear. But what could she answer,
given such a question?  In a minute,
I hear his voice speaking of someone who I think
must be long gone: "That man could say,
  'O, Mesopotamia!'
and move his audience to tears."
I get out of bed at once and draw on my pants.
Enough light in the room that I can see
where I am, finally. I'm a grown man, after all,
and these people are my friends. Things
are not going well for them just now. Or else
they're going better than ever
because they're up early and talking
about such things of consequence
as death and Mesopotamia. In any case,
I feel myself being drawn to the kitchen.
So much that is mysterious and important
is happening out there this morning.

~ Raymond Carver

Thank you, dear friend, for sending me the book of Carver poems. It had been on my internal wish list for the past few weeks. And then, last Friday morning, there was the UPS man, walking up my driveway with a package full of Raymond Carver poetry in hand, your gift note tucked inside: "He saw so much so clearly and, like Hopper, shattered all illusions."  Thank you. Truly.

Images from Tumblr and Google.


  1. How wonderful to receive such a gift in the mail! I am not familiar with Carver, but I sure did enjoy that poem. Magical, even.

  2. My oh my, the eternal question: how many Summers do I have left?

  3. It's so much fun to get surprises in the mail. What a nice poem to chose for a post to start off the morning.

  4. Hello Teresa:
    Raymond Carver is a poet who, until now, was largely unknown to us. This poem has immediately sent us in search of further examples of his work. Indeed, we shall try when next in the UK to obtain 'All of Us'.

  5. You continue to bring poetry to my desktop. I'm reading it now, and wondering why, with my degree in English, I never got into it.

  6. What a nice way to start the day--pondering an unnamed feeling and then perhaps having it put into words.

    I like Raymond Carver of course, another poet with a dark past. Are you familiar with "Late Fragment", "...And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

  7. DJan, It was better than Christmas in September. I now have countless days in which to enjoy this man's poetry.

    Michael, I gave some pause for thought regarding that line, too. The years I've had seem to be a fair amount, but when put into the number of summers, well, I want more summers. :)

    Manzanita, I trust all is well in Montana and that you're enjoying the fall. Perhaps we have an Indian summer to look forward to. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Jane and Lance, Raymond Carver was perhaps more well-known as a short story writer of some significance, but it's his poetry I've been delving into more recently. He has several volumes of each. I find his darkness mixed with light to be so utterly human and compelling.

    Linda M, Sometimes in life, we move in one direction at the expense of another and then it's later that they come round again and we find them for the first time. For me, poetry has been here since day one. I'm getting to fall in love with it all over again, though, and it feels nice.

  9. Towanda, Oh yes, aren't those beautiful lines? Such sadness in them. I was concerned that my blog would become sad, and I did feel I should go with what the book offered at random. It fit so beautifully, too. The greatness of Carver.

  10. Woke up this morning
    With sleep in my eyes and thoughts
    Of an old lover.

  11. Paul, Careful there, that can be tricky territory. You're from South Carolina, correct? I hope all is well in your corner of the country.

  12. I have been trying to fit as much of life as I can at the moment, but never wondered how much I have left.Guess it will have to came as a shock to me.Lovely verse, i have never read him.

  13. Raymond Carver has always been a favorite of mine. This makes me want to get out one of my books and read more of him. Maybe I need to wait just a little though.

    Trying to get back into blog-reading mode. Thank you so much for your comments on my blog lately. They have helped so much.

  14. Hi Betty, I am amazed at your inner strength. So glad you stopped by. If you haven't heard of Taylor Mali, I would google him and listen to/watch him do "What Teachers Make." I blogged about it a few weeks ago. I think you might appreciate it right about now.

    Best thoughts and prayers to you, and a big hug.

  15. Steve, I'm out of turn again... :) I know he can be a tad dark, but there's also an inner light that comes through. One has to be in the right frame of mind to receive that light or else the darkness he and we (I suppose I should speak only for myself), are familiar with will intrude. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  16. If I were going to select a poem from this man to post, it would be Mesopotamia.

    "So much that is mysterious and important is happening out there this morning."

    This has driven my life. I have been most happy when I am in this context and it's the only time I feel whole. Carver's short story collection, "Cathedral" is as good as it gets. I place him on par with Flannery O'Connor and that is saying a bunch.

    Evocative post about an evocative poem and poet.

  17. And thank you too, Teresa; I have the collected short stories of RC, but didn't even know that he has published poetry.
    A pleasure to come.

  18. Thank you for sharing your lovely gift received from someone thoughtful with me. Enjoyed the reading.

  19. Cletis, He is so good, isn't he? I class him with Flannery O'Connor, as well. I'm not at all surprised we're on the same page, so to speak. Thank you. :)

  20. Friko, You're going to love this man. Your blog for poetry always has such intriguing selections. I look forward to seeing what speaks to you.

    Karen, It's another lovely example of friendship bound by beautiful synchronicities, for which I'm very grateful.
    Glad you enjoyed this.

  21. Random gifts are special they really are.

  22. I, also, didn't know Carver wrote poetry. What a thoughtful gift. :)

    This was wonderful to read. Brought me right back to my English Lit classes when I was recently in college and discovering "literature" at almost 50 years old.

    I hope you shook that nameless feeling that was clinging to you. Have a good week. :)

  23. Another poem (or moment) that seemed to appear right in front of you. I know that you are listening. You always do. I could visualize Buddy sitting in his green chair. Funny how redheads look so good in green. Complimentary colors, you know. Buddy must have been an artist in another life. Wonderful poem. I love his narrative style. I wish I had the time to be writing more. Love this kind of stuff.

  24. At the clay store today the clerk said her birthday was tomorrow and it was the big one, Gary said which one is that, she said 50, Gary said that's not the big one, the big one is the last one. We've talked about our own death ourselves, when you get to past 60 your own mortality looms, what a nice gift of poetry.

  25. Rita, Yes, it was a very thoughtful gift and such "serendipity" to receive exactly what I had been wanting....

    That feeling seems to have dissipated. Thanks so much. I trust you're having a god week, too.

    Teri, I try. :) I just love it when I can witness the world working harmoniously as it always does when we get our human agendas out of the way. Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, Buddy does look good in green. He's such a good companion (I kept typing god) :)

    Linda S., I find it amusing when people turn 30 or 40 or 50 and think it's a big deal. Gary is right. :)

  26. I really do like your blog(only recently discovered) I like it all: posts and poems, quotes and pictures - it looks and feels great. Raymond Carver is an important writer for me. I'm a huge fan of his short stories and now I'm going to read more of his poetry - Thanks!

  27. Hi Avril, So glad you visited. Thanks for all the kind and encouraging words.

  28. "How many summers do I have left?" That's an easy one: Not enough.

  29. Hi Will, I have to admit that when I read that I thought, I want a lot more summers. Thank you for consistently posting ideas of real value and true substance.

  30. Lovely poem and a lovely example of happenchance : poetry books should only ever be opened at random, there should be laws that govern such things.

  31. Thank you, Teresa, for introducing me to yet another poet. I've always loved poetry, yet, never delved more intimately into it. I think that poetry takes time to digest and that it should always be read aloud, which, I suppose, makes me shy at the coffee shop.

    I don't think in terms of how many more summers I have, but, in how much more I want to do and see.

  32. Hi Alan, Welcome back from the jazzfest! You gave me a chuckle with your response, yes, laws governing such things.

    Penny, Poetry does deserve to be read aloud. I try to do so here on my own, but it would be lovely to share it often with another or others.

    re: summers. I don't think of it in terms of actual seasons or years, but as a metaphor for just what you've described. More to do. More to see.

  33. Hej Teresa! you could make a video where you are reading for us. ´)
    "How many summers have I left"- That sentence is in the head of many here after having read Carvers poem. "Not enough" says one. No, I agree, not enough. I want more summers than I can possibly have. I don't want to leave this wonderful life....We'll never get enough summers. What a pity for humans.

    PS: We have suddenly got summer temperatures again with 20 degree celsius in the week-end! Hurrah! isn't life wonderful sometimes?
    Grethe ´)

  34. Hi Grethe! "Isn't life wonderful sometimes?" Indeed it is! We're having very warm days here, as well, and it's been fun picking the rest of the grapes with my son (he's making the wine with them) and apples, at least a dozen more, so more pies. Not what I need, but I Love to bake.

    "We'll never get enough summers..." So, we'll wring all the life we can out of those we have left! ;)

  35. And Grethe, Thanks for the suggestion of a video reading aloud. I will give that some consideration. Thank You!

  36. Hej, I like to bake too but my oven is locked. The "children safety lock" goes bananas and won't make me open it. I'll have to get hold of a nice handyman!
    By the way, it was such a nice picture you painted of your morning with Buddy sleeping on in the chair. He has got a good life!
    Good luck with the pies. Apple is a wonderful fruit and there are sooo.. many this year. Well, I'd better stop talking. I'm going to a yearly control at the doctor. Shaking ~~~~~~~~
    Grethe ´)

  37. Good morning, Grethe, I suppose it's not morning there. :) I had a self-cleaning oven that once in a while would lock on me inadvertently.
    Buddy and I have a routine now. He snoozes in the chair for awhile most mornings before going outside for his morning toilette. It gives me a chance to have that first cup of coffee and relax into daybreak.
    If we were neighbors I'd invite you over for dinner and pie. I trust all went well at the doctors and you're at peace. No more shaking.;)

  38. Heja, we've got a fine little conversation here! I would like to have a good pie. I love pies. And pasta and cheese and chocolate!
    Everything okay at the doctor. No shaking anymore! I was a little scared about my sugar level,which was high a half year ago, but it's fine now. I had to fast since yesterday, so now I'm hungry!!

  39. Grethe, I'm so happy to hear of your good report. It sounds like we like the same things! I guess that's why they call it break-fast? :)

  40. I got to know Raymond Carver from when he was at Humboldt State in Arcata, CA...his work, I mean. lol
    They have a short story contest there every year in his name...I love his poetry and his unique insights into the ordinariness of life and man...
    Love this post...

  41. Oh darn, Annie, here I thought you had something juicy to share with us! ;)

    Agreed. Such insights into the "ordinary."


  42. Dear Teresa, I'm visiting your blog for the first time as a result of Rita's providing your site in her most recent posting. I'm glad she recommended your blog because, like you, I treasure poems. In them I find often the serenity that stills the stress within me.

    Always when I read the blogs of others I find that a line from a poem, memorized decades ago, comes back to me. Often I quote that line in my comment.

    Your blog is a visual and oral delight. That is, I like what I see and my tongue likes to speak the words of your posted poems.

    In reading Raymond Carver's poem I am reminded of some lines from the poem "Nothing Twice" by the European poet Wistawa Szymborska.

    Nothing can ever happen twice.
    In consequence, the sorry fact is
    that we arrive here improvised
    and leave without the chance to practice.

    Thank you for your blog. Peace.

  43. Dee, I'm so glad you stopped by and am grateful to Rita for her recommendation. It's fun to find new bloggers with whom we can share interests. I will do some further looking into the poet you've quoted. I like those lines very much.

    Thank you for your generous words about my blog.

  44. Thanks, Teresa, for commenting on my posting today about my becoming a novice and receiving a new name. I quickly began to appreciate its beauty and its call to meaning.


  45. Dee, If I recall correctly name means "nature." You have a Lovely Name.