Monday, April 13, 2015

#npm15: Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher

You may know Raymond Carver for his short stories -- which are wonderful. I also love this poem he wrote, after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis:

What the Doctor Said
by Raymond Carver

He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when  you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him 
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

I had the pleasure of meeting Carver's widow, the poet Tess Gallagher, years ago -- back in 1994. And, now that you've read the above poem, you'll more fully appreciate this sample of her beautiful work. 

I Stop Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do. 
I bring the arms of his shirt 
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back
to the poem. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done. 

Tess Gallagher, from Moon Crossing Bridge

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