Sep. 27, 2001

At Least

by Raymond Carver

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Poem: “At Least,” by Raymond Carver from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (Vintage Books).

At Least

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—I 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.

It is the birthday of poet Ray DiPalma born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania (1943). He is the author of 35 collections of poetry, including Outrageous Modesty (1976), January Zero (1984), and Motions of the Cypher (1995) with the line “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/still only brings us to Wednesday...”

It is the birthday of poet Mark Vinz, born in Rugby, North Dakota (1942), the author of Inheriting the Land (1994), Winter Poems (1975), Songs for a Hometown Boy (1977), and Deep Water, Dakota (1979).

It is the birthday of Joyce Johnson, born in New York City (1935), who, by the time she was 14, was sneaking out of the house to explore Greenwich Village, and meet the Beats, eventually becoming Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend. Her autobiography, Minor Characters, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 and was all about Kerouac, Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, William Burroughs, and others. The minor characters for which the book was titled were the gifted young women on the periphery of the dramatic lives of these writers.

It’s the birthday of lawyer and novelist Louis Auchincloss, born in Lawrence, New York (1917), into the family of a wealthy Wall Street lawyer. Auchincloss spent summers in Bar Harbor and Long Island, went to Yale, and was a navy officer in WWII, after which he wrote his first novel, The Indifferent Children (1947) under the pseudonym Andrew Lee. He pursued a career as an attorney while writing about a book a year, fiction set in New York City, about lawyers, bankers, and executives and their families, including The House of Five Talents, Portrait of a Brownstone, and Tales of Manhattan.

It’s the birthday of screen and mystery writer Jim Thompson, born in Anadarko, Oklahoma (1906), the author of pulp fiction, sometimes 10 books a year, based on his life as an oil pipeline worker, a steeplejack, a burlesque actor, a professional gambler, and a reporter for a New York tabloid. It took him two weeks to write The Killer Inside Me (1953), about a schizophrenic, small-town sheriff murderer, which film director Stanley Kubrick made into a movie, The Killing. Thompson wrote the screenplay for it and also for Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957).

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