The Jungle

“I only have two hands,”
the beautiful flight attendant
says. She continues
up the aisle with her tray and
out of his life forever,
he thinks. Off to his left,
far below, some lights
from a village high
on a hill in the jungle.

So many impossible things
have happened,
he isn’t surprised when she
returns to sit in the
empty seat across from his.
“Are you getting off
in Rio, or going on to Buenos Aires?”

Once more she exposes
her beautiful hands.
The heavy silver rings that hold
her fingers, the gold bracelet
encircling her wrist.

They are somewhere in the air
over the steaming Mato Grosso.
It is very late.
He goes on considering her hands.
Looking at her clasped fingers.
It’s months afterwards, and
hard to talk about.

– Raymond Carver

The Scratch

I woke up with a spot of blood
over my eye. A scratch
halfway across my forehead.
But I’m sleeping alone these days.
Why on earth would a man raise his hand
against himself, even in sleep?
It’s this and similar questions
I’m trying to answer this morning.
As I study my face in the window.

– Raymond Carver

The Current

These fish have no eyes
these silver fish that come to me in dreams,
scattering their roe and milt
in the pockets of my brain.

But there’s one that comes–
heavy, scarred, silent like the rest,
that simply holds against the current,

closing its dark mouth against
the current, closing and opening
as it holds to the current.

– Raymond Carver


You are falling in love again. This time
it is a South American general’s daughter.
You want to be stretched on the rack again.
You want to hear awful things said to you
and to admit these things are true.
You want to have unspeakable acts
committed against your person, things
nice people don’t talk about in classrooms.
You want to tell everything you know
on Simon Bolivar, on Jorge Luis Borges,
on yourself most of all.
You want to implicate everyone in this!
Even when it’s four o’clock in the morning
and the lights are burning still –
those lights that have been burning night and day
in your eyes and brain for two weeks –
and you are dying for a smoke and a lemonade,
but she won’t turn off the lights that woman
with the green eyes and little ways about her,
even when you want to be her gaucho.
Dance with me, you imagine hearing her say
as you reach for the empty beaker of water.
Dance with me, she says again and no mistake.
She picks this minute to ask you, hombre,
to get up and dance with her in the nude.
No, you don’t have the strength of a fallen leaf,
not the strength of a little reed basket
battered by waves on Lake Titicaca.
But you bound out of bed
just the same, amigo, you dance
across wide open spaces.

– Raymond Carver


Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

– Raymond Carver

The Sensitive Girl

This is the fourth day I’ve been here.
But, no joke, there’s a spider
on this pane of glass
that’s been around even longer. It doesn’t
move, but I know it’s alive.

Fine with me that lights are coming on
in the valleys. It’s pretty here,
and quiet. Cattle are being driven home.
If I listen, I can hear cowbells
and then the slap-slap of the driver’s
stick. There’s haze
over these lumpy Swiss hills. Below the house,
a race of water through the alders.
Jets of water tossed up,
sweet and hopeful.

There was a time
I would’ve died for love.
No more. The center wouldn’t hold.
It collapsed. It gives off
no light. Its orbit
an orbit of weariness. But I worry
that time and wish I knew why.
Who wants to remember
when poverty and disgrace pushed
through the door, followed by a cop
to invest the scene
with horrible authority?
The latch was fastened, but
that never stopped anybody back then.
Hey, no one breathed in those days,
Ask her, if you don’t believe me!
Assuming you could find her and
make her talk. That girl who dreamed
and sang. Who sometimes hummed
when she made love. The sensitive girl.
The one who cracked.

I’m a grown man now, and then some.
So how much longer do I have?
How much longer for that spider?
Where will he go, two days into fall,
the leaves dropping?

The cattle have entered their pen.
The man with the stick raises his arm.
Then closes and fastens the gate.

I find myself, at last, in perfect silence.
Knowing the little that is left.
Knowing I have to love it.
Wanting to love it. For both our sake.

– Raymond Carver