Poetry: “What The Doctor Said” by Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver (May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988)
When I picked up Raymond Carver’s wonderful poetry book, “All of Us The Collected Poems”, it opened at this poem…

What The Doctor Said by Raymond Carver

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong
Raymond Carver, American poet and short story writer  (a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s), died from lung cancer when only 50.
Thanks to Betty Londergan for suggesting I read Raymond Carver’s poetry.

About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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13 Responses to Poetry: “What The Doctor Said” by Raymond Carver

  1. Ooooh, that’s a lovely one! (And new to me, too.) I’m so happy you like his poetry: New Path to the Waterfall is his last book of poems — and it’s so moving. I love that he is so unsentimental and his words are anything but flowery, but his writing just socks you in the gut — thanks so much for sharing!

    • dearrosie says:

      What I found amazing is that there’s no self pity at all in this poem when you think that Raymond Carver wrote it after being told by his doctor, that as well as having a brain tumor, two-thirds of his lung was cancerous.

      I’m also so enjoying reading his short stories that I’ve read a couple to Mr F at bedtime. The collection I’m reading from is “Where I’m Calling From – New and Selected Stories” and “Call if you Need Me”.
      Thanks again Betty.

  2. Boris says:

    Thanks dear Rosie for allowing me to read this again. Your choices are good. It’s a revelation to read Carvers words in poetic form because his ear for dialog and structure really shine this way.

    • dearrosie says:

      While I enjoy hearing a poem read to me I find I also need to read it to get the full benefit of the structure and the choice of words. I love that I can read Raymond Carver’s poems and understand immediately what he’s saying without having to say what the heck did he mean?

  3. E fullstop says:

    Wow…simply powerful and powerfully simple. Thanks for sharing.

    Do you remember that when JB’s apartment burned we discovered a 17th century haiku that seemed perfect? It quickly became and still is my favorite poem.

    “My storehouse burned down
    Now nothing stands between me
    And the moon above.” – Masahide

  4. Wonderful! We should all live like this, humbly, with gratitude.

  5. So genuine. Though he’s just heard news that would be hard for anyone to bear, he shares his emotions with us in everyday honest language. Not easy, yet deeply affecting.
    Today was good, because I found Raymond Carver’s poetry.

  6. Marie says:

    I need help.. i am a highschooler and i am annotating this poem.. but i canr quite find the literary techniques he uses..

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Marie
      It’s good to know that high school students are studying Raymond Carver. His poetry is unsentimental and his use of simple words that “sock you in the gut” as Betty put it, reminds me of the Polish poet Wislawa-Szymborska’s work.

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