Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Places to Fish

Another of those rain drenched, wind whipped days at the beach which had all signs of a tropical storm but one that hasn’t excited the attention of meteorologists. As if operating on pulleys and guidelines, the same patio chair lifted off at some time in the night and flew in a beeline to smash again the same walkway light it crumpled one night earlier. Been trying to figure out how to explain that coincidence to the handyman charged with such repairs. Too much weather for venturing out of doors, so Saturday passed under the reading lamp with occasional breaks to stare out at the storm tossed ocean of mostly white froth, a thin band of gray-green below the murky horizon the only sight of unruffled water.

Maybe influenced by the weather, maybe not, but for a while in the afternoon an old book of Raymond Carver poems provided distraction from the noisy weather. I make the connection because a fair portion of the poems I read today have a dark underside that border on storms of another kind. On two earlier occasions I’ve posted poems by Carver, both times from the same book, All of Us. It is a posthumous collection arranged and edited by Tess Gallagher and first published in 1996 eight years after Carver’s death.

The poem titled, “In the Lobby of the Hotel del Mayo” Craver wrote in 1985 and speaks of an unexplained event or phenomenon that disturbs a bland and hot Sunday afternoon in a tropical hotel lobby. We are no wiser after the final two lines which describe more often than not the moments between humdrum and tragedy.


The girl in the lobby reading a leather-bound book.

The man in the lobby using a broom.

The boy in the lobby watering plants.

The desk clerk looking at his nails.

The woman in the lobby writing a letter.

The old man in the lobby sleeping in his chair.

The fan in the lobby revolving slowly overhead.

Another hot Sunday afternoon.

Suddenly, the girl lays her finger between the pages of

her book.

The man leans on his broom and looks.

The boy stops in his tracks.

The desk clerk raises his eyes and stares.

The woman quits writing.

The old man stirs and wakes up.

What is it?

Someone is running up from the harbor.

Someone who has the sun behind him.

Someone who is bare-chested.

Waving his arms.

It’s clear something terrible has happened.

The man is running straight for the hotel.

His lips are working themselves into a scream.

Everyone in the lobby will recall their terror.

Everyone will remember this moment for the rest of their lives.

The poem below is an earlier work from 1968, the poet’s years-later interpretation of the figure and face he sees in a photograph of his father.


October. Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen

I study my father’s embarrassed young man’s face.

Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string

of spiny yellow perch, in the other

a bottle of Carlsbad Beer.

In jeans and denim shirt, he leans

against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.

He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,

Wear his old hat cocked over his ear.

All his life my father wanted to be bold.

But the eyes give him away, and the hands

that limply offer the string of dead perch

and the bottle of beer. Father, I love you,

yet how can I say thank you, I who can’t hold my liquor either,

and don’t even know the places to fish?

More of Raymond Carver here and here.


  1. Good poems--especially (for me) the second one. That one speaks to me of my own relationship with my father, of things carried from father to son and the lifetime of adjustment to things both good and bad.

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About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America