from ALL OF US
So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.
Remarks on Raymond Carver's "Happiness"
by Tess Gallagher
This poem was a favorite of Raymond Carver's. It captures something unspoken and almost subliminal
about the way young boys companion each other in the early morning hours when daylight is just coming
on. The sight of these two boys aligns with the pale moon hanging over the water, and just as that
moon seems a magical appearance, the two boys likewise, just doing what they are doing, take on the
special feeling of being seen at a distance and all the more magical and real at once.
I admire how the poem manages to articulate what cannot be spoken of--things that can only be presented. Held at
face value. The poem becomes a definition for something very elusive called "happiness." The adult-consciousness decision of happiness may come from realizing how carefree they are by comparison to his
now-adult life. There is also a wonderful quiet in the poem, a just-born stillness. There is a wonderful tenderness about the supposition made in the poem at the moment the speaker says: "I think
if they could, they would take each other's arm."
After one reads the poem, these two boys seem to hang in one's consciousness like that pale moon over the water. There is a very casual, offhanded tone
to the poem, but it still manages to give a portrait of a scene of happiness which is not at all a cliche and is, for that reason, an original expression of a term which is a bit worn out: happiness. I
like the way the poem brings us to understand that happiness isn't some big momentous occasion, but really is more these quiet, unnoticed moments.
Poem excerpted from All of Us by Raymond Carver. Copyrightę 1998 by Tess Gallagher. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of
Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.