Friday, October 06, 2006

What was I thinking?

I reread Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love last night. I don't know why. It was there on the bookshelf, alongside the other three collections of his I own and the two volumes of peotry. There was a time, in my early career as a writer, that I was way too into him. (Gee, that was also the time when I was drinking and partying wayyy to much. Funny that.)

Anyhoo, I'm also going through some back files on my hard drive, trying to locate this fragment of a story I was working on a few months ago and came across this poem by David Bottoms called "Lord, What are the Sins" taken from his book In A U-Haul North of Damascus. (Don't worry: I'm going to paste it at the end of this post.)

He reminds me so much of Carver I think he's somehow managed to channel him. It breaks my heart in the same way Carver does and somehow makes me think of the desperation and heart ache of the Farmer when I met her back in Vacaville. (She wasn't a drunk, at least as far as I coudl tell, but there was a broken, frayed quality to her. The farm had been--well--let go. Things just dropped where she'd used them. Old carpeting and trash and furniture. It felt like it'd been along time since somebody had lived there, even though my sister and the farmer and the baker were all right there.)

Lord, What are the Sins

Lord, what are the sins
I have tried to leave behind me? The bad checks,
the workless days, the scotch bottles thrown across the fence
and into the woods, the cruelty of silence,
the cruelty of lies, the jealousy,
the indifference?

What are these on the scale of sin
or failure
that they should follow me through the streets of Columbus,
the moon-streaked fields between Benevolence
and Cuthbert where dwarfed cotton sparkles like pearls
on the shoulders of the road. What are these
that they should find me half-lost,
sick and sleepless
behind the wheel of this U-Haul truck parked in a field on Georgia 45
a few miles north of Damascus,
some makeshift rest stop for eighteen wheelers
where the long white arms of oaks slap across trailers
and headlights glare all night through a wall of pines?

What was I thinking, Lord?
That for once I'd be in the driver's seat, a firm grip
on direction?

So the jon boat muscled up the ramp,
the Johnson outboard, the bent frame of the wrecked Harley
chained for so long to the backyard fence,
the scarred desk, the bookcases and books,
the mattress and box springs,
a broken turntable, a Pioneer amp, a pair
of three-way speakers, everything mine
I intend to keep. Everything else abandon.

But on the road from one state
to another, what is left behind nags back through the distance,
a last word rising to a scream, a salad bowl
shattering against a kitchen cabinet, china barbs
spiking my heel, blood trailed across the cream linoleum
like the bedsheet that morning long ago
just before I watched the future miscarried.

Jesus, could the irony be
that suffering forms a stronger bond than love?

From "In a U-Haul North of Damascus" Copyright 1983 by David Bottoms.



Blogger Shep said...

I found Richard Yates recently. Revolutionary Road gives me that total Carver vibe. Like finding an old friend you didn't know you had.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

wow... i really like this poem... i didn't used to enjoy reading poetry much, but so far i've loved the poems you post... maybe you should recommend some really great books of poetry to me...

i'd like that :)

2:55 AM  
Blogger Pendullum said...

Must go away and ponder...
Thank you...

12:24 PM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Whoa, what a heavy closing sentiment. What ARE you doing readingthis stuff! Hey, who am I to talk, I read The Road. We're going to hell ina raceboat.

Shep, oh good ol Yates huh? Yep, done him no re-reads for me, but he is powerfully good isn't he?

10:49 AM  

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