October 27, 1989
And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth. --Ray Carver He was in a hotel in Baltimore in a suburb near Johns Hopkins. He would give a talk there, and they would pay him for it. It was night, and he was alone; sirens were racing up and down the streets. The room was very large. Most of what he had wished as a boy was to write poems, to have some power with the word, to be paid for talking. Don't smile, please. He wanted to be put in a beautiful room like this. Bonnie would pick him up in an hour. He saw out the picture window a few men in trenchcoats walking toward the parking lot, and beyond that headlights and taillights on a freeway a mile or so away. He'd been reading Carver's last book of poems, reading "Gravy" and the other valedictories. He remembered Carver a few years before his death, kidding about his prosperity, kneeling before his Mercedes and waving a fistful of dollars, because he was so amazed, he supposed, to have them, that good man, whose last poems, written in the knowledge of imminent death, said love the world, don't grieve overmuch, listen to people. The beautiful room was a good place to read; he'd finished the book (for the second time) at the pine desk, where the indirect white light hurt his eyes. He didn't think he'd ever be as famous as Carver, but who could tell? He was sorry the man was dead; there was nothing he could do about that, but he was sorry for it. He got up to look out the picture window. He could see the red spintops of some cops' cars. Other than that nothing special: in the entrance courtyard a lone cabbie smoked a cigarette; spotlights shone up through the yellow foliage of a clump of maples. A few slow crickets. He had everything he really wanted, he had learned that friends, like love, couldn't save him.
From The Land of Cockaigne by Ed Ochester, published by Story Line Press. Copyright © 2001 by Ed Ochester. Published by permission of the author and Story Line Press. All rights reserved.