You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of life, okay.
It was raining. The neighbors who had
a key were away. I tried and tried
the lower windows. Stared
inside at the sofa, plants, the table
and chairs, the stereo set-up.
My coffee cup and ashtray waited for me
on the glass-topped table, and my heart
went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,
or something like that. After all,
this wasn’t so bad.
Worst things had happened. This
was even a little funny. I found the ladder.
Took that and leaned it against the house.
Then climbed in the rain to the deck,
swung myself over the railing
and tried the door. Which was locked,
of course. But I looked in just the same
at my desk, some papers, and my chair.
This was the window on the other side
of the desk where I’d raise my eyes
and stare out when I sat at that dest.
This is not like downstairs, I thought.
This is something else.
And it was something to look in like that, unseen,
from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.
I don’t even think I can talk about it.
I brought my face close to the glass
and imagined myself inside,
sitting at the desk. Looking up
from my work now and again.
Thinking about some other place
and some other time.
The people I had loved then.
I stood there for a minute in the rain.
Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
Even though I felt violently ashamed
of the injury I’d done back then.
I bashed that beautiful window.
And stepped back in.
If we’re lucky, writer and reader alike, we’ll finish the last line or two of a short story and then just sit for a minute, quietly. Ideally, we’ll ponder what we’ve just written or read; maybe our hearts or intellects will have been moved off the peg just a little from where they were before. Our body temperature will have gone up, or down, by a degree. Then, breathing evenly and steadily once more, we’ll collect ourselves, writers and readers alike, get up, “created of warm blood and nerves” as a Chekhov character puts it, and go on to the next thing: Life. Always life.
by Raymond Carver
I’m not the man she claims. But
this much is true: the past is
distant, a receding coastline,
and we’re all in the same boat,
a scrim of rain over the sea-lanes.
Still, I wish she wouldn’t keep on
saying those things about me!
Over the long course
everything but hope lets you go, then
even that loosens its grip.
There isn’t enough of anything
as long as we live. But at intervals
a sweetness appears and, given a chance,
prevails. It’s true I’m happy now.
And it’d be nice if she
could hold her tongue. Stop
hating me for being happy.
Blaming me for her life. I’m afraid
I’m mixed up in her mind
with someone else. A young man
of no character, living on dreams,
who swore he’d love her forever.
One who gave her a ring, and a bracelet.
Who said, Come with me. You can trust me.
Things to that effect. I’m not that man.
She has me confused, as I said,
with someone else.
I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the water as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.