Subject: my little fit
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 1995 120606
Sorry to be so cryptic over the phone regarding my little fit on Tuesday evening (which took place right before you called, in fact).
It happened like this.
I was all prepared to fight off flu symptoms that evening, so I bundled up in longies and a sweater and a wool winter hat and nestled under the covers in the company of TV and a VCR. For some reason, I decided to finish watching this documentary on Raymond Carver, who is a big short-story writin’ favorite of mine, introduced to me by none other than L.A. Ed when we were in high school.
I stress “finish” watching because every time I start watching it (and I’ve had it in my possession since the summer) I get inspired and have to turn it off and run to a notebook and start writing/plagiarizing the Ray-Man.
This time, of course, was no exception: somehow I got to thinking about the day that Ed told me (over the phone) that Carver had died, and how I had assumed at first that he had gone out like the alcoholic, trailer park writer that was the subject of so many of his stories; how I was actually disappointed to find out that Ray had had his last drop of liquor long before Ed and I discovered him, and years before his death at a young age in 1988.
A twisted, morbid disappointment, I concede.
The tape in the VCR kept rolling, but I continued thinking about how the great ones went out with a bang. Literally. Literarily.
Like poet John Berryman: he spent his entire life dealing with the fact that his father committed suicide. This is most notable in “Dream Songs,” nearly 400 poems in which he (in the persona of “Henry”) curses his father for leaving him behind to live. Berryman was admitted to asylums as many times as he was married (three); after years of attempting to purge his father’s suicide on paper, Berryman finally came to terms by stepping off a bridge to his own death.
I stopped the VCR and ran and fetched “Dream Songs” and a notebook off of my shelf, looking for what I could steal for the poem that was forming in my head… something about life imitating art, with specific reference to Carver and Berryman.
Then I got to thinking about how Hemingway, too, ended a lifetime of coping with his father’s suicide by blowing himself away… so I had to dig out stories and notes on Papa Ernie, too.
So I’m getting these ideas, I’m jotting them down, but then I have to let the tape roll so I can develop an ending to what’s forming in my head. I let the tape roll because I have to be reminded exactly of how Carver died so the poem can have a final stanza.
You have to wonder how much Freudian repression was going on to keep me from remembering that Carver died of lung cancer.
Just like dad.
And that, my little peanut blossom, was when I lost it.
And the final stanza pretty much wrote itself.
The poem follows.