Sunday, January 6, 2013

Finding Happiness in Raymond Carver's Socks



It was a Raymond Carver kind of evening, which wasn't necessarily a good or bad thing, the darkening hours had simply left me feeling a little weighted down. Without giving it any thought, I found myself reaching for Raymond - certainly not for a lightening of the mood - and there he was, telling me about waking up "feeling anxious and bone-lonely." Not wishing to go down that dark corridor, I read his poem, "The White Field," with a bit of trepidation. And I was right, the story he tells there of "relentless logic," is for another day.

My attention was then drawn to his poem on the next page, titled simply, "Heels." I don't think it was his opening words, "Begin nude," well, it could have been, I think it was more the dilemma of finding his socks, something I'm not entirely unfamiliar with. Just this morning, after a brief search, I found my own hiding behind the nightstand. After a little discussion with myself over whether or not to wear the same socks I wore yesterday, laziness won and on they went. Besides, I'd only worn them briefly when I'd went into the meadow with Buddy for our afternoon walk. Isn't rationalization a wonderful thing?

Anyway, I'll let Raymond tell you his own story of searching for socks. And just so you know, by the time I'd finished reading this poem, I was in a much lighter state of mind. There was something about seeing Raymond standing there in the doorway, with unexpected stars overhead and his socks on his arms, that cheered me. Someone else was doing the almost foolish thing and willing to tell us about it.

"Heels"

Begin nude, looking for the socks
worn yesterday and maybe
the day before, etc. They're not
on your feet, but they can't
have gone far. They're under the bed!
You take them up and give them
a good shaking to free the dust.
Shaking's no more than they deserve.
Now run your hand down the limp,
shapeless things. These blue,
brown, black, green, or grey socks.
You feel you could put your arm into one
and it wouldn't make  a particle
of difference. So why not do this
one thing you're inclined to do?
You draw them on over your fingers
and work them up to the elbow.
You close and open your fists. Then
close them again, and keep them that way.
Now your hands are like heels
that could stamp
on things. Anything.
You're heading for the door
when the draft of air hits your ankles
and you're reminded of those wild swans
at Coole, and the wild swans at places
you've never heard of, let alone
visited. You understand now
just how far away you are from all that
as you fumble with the closed door.
Then the door opens! You wanted it
to be morning, as expected
after a night's uneasy sleep.
But stars are overhead, and the moon
reels above dark trees.
You raise your arms and gesture.
A man with socks over his hands
under the night sky.
It's like, but not like, a dream.

~ Raymond Carver



Image: Raymond in his study, socks clearly visible and on his feet, where they're usually worn.


30 comments:

  1. These days (as I get older) this is an apt description of what I might experience during the night. I had to laugh. I have been thinking its kind of sad but now I understand its kind of funny!

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    1. RC had the ability to help us see both the sadness and the silliness of the human condition and he did so brilliantly. There are lines in this poem that make me almost weep for their beauty.

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  2. Yes, this poem made me giggle!
    Happy Monday!! :)

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    1. Isn't that a great image, Raymond standing with his socks over his arms, looking up at the night sky?

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  3. Carver was a brilliant brilliant writer.Sock It To us Raymond!

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  4. What an uplifting poem! We've all been there with the sock thing, and you (and Raymond) made me remember long ago when I would carry an extra pair of wool socks when hiking in case I got my feet wet. And how once I needed to use them as mittens, and they worked great. Now my mood is lighter. Thank you, Teresa. And Raymond. :-)

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    1. The idea of Raymond reacting to life in this way just made me happy. I hope you have a good week, Jan!

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  5. What an interesting poem, I like the directness of it very much and the way that leads us unsuspectingly to something more ethereal. Don't know Raymond Carver's work at all so I will go on a search. Thanks for a nice start to the week!

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    1. Hi Jill, Yes, it is that moving into something ethereal that so captivated me and lifted me up. You're most welcome!

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  6. I love Raymond Carver. Do you know his poem "Gravy"?

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    1. Yes, RC's poems are so personal yet very universal. That one is especially poignant. I hope you have a wonderful week, Betty!

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  7. I waited to hear he made puppets with them almost. A cold way to meet the day.

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  8. I don't know how wearing socks on your arms would do, but I do know that socks become more important the farther north you go.

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    1. They can make all the difference this time of year, coming in quite...uh, handy :)

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  9. Fun poem! We were just discussing warm and fuzzy socks yestreday. It has been so cold here, my husband had on two pair : )
    I have also used socks as mittens in a pinch.

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  10. Socks, where would be without them?

    But I have never heard of them as the main ingredients in a poem. Imaginative RC does it again, and you, Teresa, bring him and them to me. Thank you.

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    1. RC had intriguing view of life, didn't he? Thanks, Friko. Nice to hear from you.

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  11. I read this yesterday and I just had to come back to say, "Cool." I was idly wondering what might happen if more poems or essays began with "Begin nude."

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    1. They are words to capture one's attention. :)

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  12. Hi Teresa,

    Yes, rationalization is a wonderful thing. This bit of it helped you to move on with your day, as it has helped me to move on with mine, many times.

    You've introduced me to Carver and even though I didn't relate to the whimsy of this poem, the "feeling anxious and bone-lonely," line caught my attention. I found an excerpt of it on Google and loved it.

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    1. What I like so much about Carver is even in a poem that has a bit of "whimsy," there are also some startling beautiful lines and a tinge of darkness that is intriguing. Glad you googled the other... a good poem.

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  13. I love socks. What a great invention! When I was a kid we always wore our socks to bed. That North-facing upstairs bedroom rarely got warmer than 50F in the dead of Winter. I have two pair of Filson socks that I never let out of my sight during the Winter. One pair is black and the other pair is grey.

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    1. I love that we have similar backgrounds. Once we saw our breath in the morning. It was a porch that should not have been a bedroom for three. Thank you for sharing your socks with me... :)

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  14. A great and grand poem that sounded like something I might do. Who hasn't had a sock sort of day? Mine, this day, are bright red with snowflakes on them, with a hole in one heel and I'm wearing them because they are otherwise warm, and, well, because I can. I think R.C. would understand.
    Thanks, Teresa.

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    1. I'm certain that he would. Penny, I always love your comments.

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