I Am Not the Famous One: a tribute to author/poet Ray Carver

by Gary Leon Zimmer

I am not the famous one. But my pain was equal to his.

He became Chekhov. I became Alfie.

The meanness of the streets that spawned us made him a literary oak, while I became the hollow man, looking both outward and inward for substance not yet there.

His legend established, his journey ended. My mediocrity lingers long, yet unexplained.

He lived close to the fairgounds while I climbed its fence in a black leather jacket, collar turned up, white t-shirt underneath, scowling, announcing a manhood not yet achieved.

He was raised by an alcoholic, itinerant father. My flesh grew as the devil ranted, my spirit beneath his feet, no handhold to raise itself.

He had no inside plumbing on fifteenth street. At the house in the alley I had beer bottles on Sunday and hunger by Wednesday.

His father wrested a living from the same mill that filled my friend Jimmy with water, taking away his profanity and leaving his mother with hair turned white overnight. Death still not understood, I laughed at his funeral.

His house too full, he wrote his stories in cars. Bereft of self, cars became the vessel in which I conducted a fruitful search for meaning, if only for the briefest of moments.

Words were his refuge. Mine was spherical and a talent to manipulate my body in fluid physical form, pleasing to others, giving birth to more brief moments of wholeness.

His was the class of Monda, Golphnee, Majors, Irwin and Keith. They lived in the light while our equal to Russian brilliance groped in the darkness, unseen.

His star, fully risen, he kissed his Tess goodbye and surrendered himself to the infinite untold story.

Still lost in the forest, I look back over my shoulder and ponder the complexities of that mean little town, still mostly unaware of the stature of the boy who emerged from its east side to take his place alongside Hemingway, Mailer, Thoreau and Wilder.