May 25, 2001


by Raymond Carver

FRIDAY, 25 MAY 2001
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Poem: "Waiting," by Raymond Carver, from All of Us: The Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf).


Left off the highway and
down the hill. At the
bottom, hang another left.
Keep bearing left. The road
will make a Y. Left again.
There's a creek on the left.
Keep going. Just before
the road ends, there'll be
another road. Take it
and no other. Otherwise,
your life will be ruined
forever. There's a log house
with a shake roof, on the left.
It's not that house. It's
the next house, just over
a rise. The house
where trees are laden with
fruit. Where phlox, forsythia,
and marigold grow. It's
the house where the woman
stands in the doorway
wearing the sun in her hair. The one
who's been waiting
all this time.
The woman who loves you.
The one who can say,
"What's kept you?"

On this day in 1994, Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, after 20 years abroad, returned to Russia.

It's the birthday of novelist Jamaica Kincaid, born in St. John's, Antigua, in the West Indies (1949). When she was 16 years old, she left home for New York and became a writer for The New Yorker magazine. She's the author of short stories, the novels Annie John (1985) and Lucy (1990), and most recently a collection entitled Talk Stories (2001).

It's the birthday of poet and short story writer Raymond Carver, born in Clatskanie, Oregon (1938), the child of a sawmill worker and a waitress. Within a year of leaving high school, he married and had children. He had some success as a writer in the late 60s: his story "Will you Please Be Quiet, Please?" was selected for the Best American Short Stories anthology in 1967. It was the same year he began drinking heavily, torn between the demands of writing and family. He was in and out of detox programs before he finally quit drinking, through AA, in 1982. He's the author of many collections of stories, including What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), Cathedral (1983), and Where I'm Calling From (1988). His poetry collections include Where Water Comes Together with Other Water (1985) and Ultramarine (1987).

It's the birthday of suspense novelist Robert Ludlum, born in New York City (1927). His first book, The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971), was a huge best seller.

It's the birthday of poet Theodore Roethke, born in Saginaw, Michigan (1908). His father and his uncle both were in the flower business and owned extensive greenhouses. He was manic-depressive in the days before reliable medication had been developed; as he aged, his breakdowns became more frequent. Still, he managed to do a great deal of good work. His fourth collection, The Waking, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953; Words for the Wind (1957) and The Far Field (1964) both won the National Book Award.

It's the birthday of essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, born in Boston (1803), descended from a long line of New England clergymen. He, too, after graduating from Harvard, went to divinity school and became a minister in Boston. He only lasted at his post for three years; he resigned because of his religious doubts and because he disliked the idea of teaching religious orthodoxy. He sailed to England, where he met Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. On his return to America, he moved to Concord, Massachusetts, and took up a literary career.

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