I have to say that the greatest influence on my life,
and on my writing, directly and indirectly,
has been my two Children.
-- Raymond Carver
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Raymond, I am not like you,
Though we've both known drunkenness and despair.
And we've both been influenced by our children,
But I think in different ways.
And I, too, have a brief attention span,
Limiting me to things of a single sitting --
Poetry and short fiction. I speak now of reading.
You were John Gardner's most famous and successful student.
I can only know him from his words,
And seek vainly to find him in yours:
Words honed sharp on a blue whetstone
Worn smooth by the sea,
Found in a handkerchief under your desk,
Then passed from hand to hand.
Blue is the precise word, I believe, for
Your free strophes full of drunkenness and people pissing,
And your spare prose, pared too deep sometimes,
But greater still than larger things.
I hope your too-short life was not so sad as they suggest.
Where did you pass the blade, Raymond,
When your carving days were through?
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