Monday, February 1 – Raymond Carver “At Least”
Detroit Metro Airport, 7:23 am Saturday. I’m heading to Washington DC for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, an annual ritual right after my university’s January Board of Trustees’ meeting. Lots of attendees, some close friends, some I’ve not met. I stay at the Jesuit community, Leonard Neale House, about a 25 minute walk from the conference’s Ritz Carlton hotel. Gerry Stockhausen lived here; most of the Jesuits in the house work with one or another national Jesuit office. Stock was Executive Secretary of The Jesuit Conference, where he worked with Tim Kesicki, President of the Conference. While I was packing this morning I realized that it will take some grace to take in and be welcomed into Gerry’s absence — for me and the 10 men with whom he lived.
Monday will be busy and I had some time in Detroit Metro this morning so I fished around in Garrison Keilor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” and found a poet new to me. Raymond Carver’s “At Least” freshens this travel morning. So does the note just below the poem where GK recalls for his readers that today is the birthday of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: three short FDR sayings.
Wednesday’s post will follow “Work Day/Hard Times” in its ordinary rhythm. Enjoy Raymond Carver and FDR.
Sunday January 31 Raymond Carver “At least”
by Raymond Carver
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—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.
“At Least” by Raymond Carver from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water. © Vintage Books, 1986. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born in Hyde Park, New York (1882). He said: “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”
He also said, “I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.”
And he said, “Remember you are just an extra in everyone else’s play.”