On this day in history
Raymond Carver came to town
a hulking man with sapphire blue eyes
drinker's nose and a tipsy finger-
tip handshake with time to kill
before his reading at Columbia University;
He shared cocaine at the apartment
of a young writer, Jay, who idolized Ray's
piercing minimalist fiction, his own life
a bent out of shape Carver character,
having recently lost his mother,
wife to divorce, any notion of self-discipline,
his fact-checking job at The New Yorker.
Ray, of course, knew from dissipation
and suggested that the young writer
might want to flee the dangers and distractions
of the big city to work on his craft far upstate.
On the train uptown Jay worried the idea
as if he had a writer's stake in the heart
of the publishing world, worried it more so
in the room where the soon to be huge
Ray Carver read “Put Yourself in My Shoes”
to a small but ecstatic audience
while not fifty blocks away Mark Chapman
hid in an alcove at the stately Dakota.
John Azrak has published widely in literary magazines and anthologies; his most recent poems, in Nimrod and Stoneboat, deal with the war in Syria. He is an admirer of the work of Raymond Carver and John Lennon.