October 27, 1989

          And what did you want?
          To call myself beloved, to feel myself
                 beloved on the earth.
                       --Ray Carver
He was in a hotel in Baltimore
in a suburb near Johns Hopkins. He would

give a talk there, and they would pay him for it. 
It was night, and he was alone; sirens were racing

up and down the streets. The room was very large. 
Most of what he had wished as a boy was to write poems,

to have some power with the word, to be paid 
for talking. Don't smile, please. He wanted

to be put in a beautiful room like this. 
Bonnie would pick him up in an hour. He saw

out the picture window a few men in trenchcoats 
walking toward the parking lot, and beyond that

headlights and taillights on a freeway a mile 
or so away. He'd been reading Carver's last book

of poems, reading "Gravy" and the other valedictories. 
He remembered Carver a few years before his death,

kidding about his prosperity, kneeling before his Mercedes 
and waving a fistful of dollars, because he was so amazed,

he supposed, to have them, that good man, whose last poems, 
written in the knowledge of imminent death, said

love the world, don't grieve overmuch, listen to people. 
The beautiful room was a good place to read; he'd finished

the book (for the second time) at the pine desk, where 
the indirect white light hurt his eyes. He didn't think 

he'd ever be as famous as Carver, but who could tell? 
He was sorry the man was dead; there was nothing

he could do about that, but he was sorry for it. 
He got up to look out the picture window. He could

see the red spintops of some cops' cars. Other than that 
nothing special: in the entrance courtyard a lone cabbie

smoked a cigarette; spotlights shone up through the yellow 
foliage of a clump of maples. A few slow crickets.

He had everything he really wanted, he had learned 
that friends, like love, couldn't save him.

From The Land of Cockaigne by Ed Ochester, published by Story Line Press. Copyright © 2001 by Ed Ochester. Published by permission of the author and Story Line Press. All rights reserved.