October 27, 1989
And what did you want?
by Ed Ochester
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
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.