In the days immediately following Isaac's death we were overwhelmed with cards and flowers, so many that it became difficult to find space for them all in the front room. Among the hundreds of messages of love, condolences and support came a card from a friend with a quote from Raymond Carver on the front. It turns out that this little piece of poetry called Late Fragment is inscribed on Carver's gravestone.
The poem had a big impact on me when it arrived in December, in the early stages of grief while also organising Isaac's funeral and trying to pull together his eulogy. It hits me still reading it now. It's beautiful, saying so much in so few words.
Raymond Carver wrote short stories, usually about the quiet and sometimes sad and lonely lives of ordinary American men and women. His writing tends to lean towards brevity, realism and reflection. I remember reading a book of his short stories in the late 80s, probably because I read a review of it when he died in 1988. I hadn't then thought of Raymond Carver's work until three summers ago when I read Dave Haslam's Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor and he mentioned Carver. I ordered a book of his short stories and read it while on holiday in France and found it a very different experience reading Carver and about the people in his stories in my late 40s compared to first reading them in my late teens.
Yesterday while scrolling aimlessly through Twitter on my phone I was stopped in my tracks by a poem by Constantine Cavafy, written in 1904. Cavafy was Greek and wrote in Greek so are a few few slightly different translations but this one was the one I found and had a similar impact to Carver's all those week's ago.
It doesn't go away, it's always there but sometimes I now find myself doing things- reading, writing for the blog, teaching, watching something on TV- where for a few minutes it has gone to the back of my mind, where it's not immediately present and causing a ball of pain in my chest and stomach. It crashes back in suddenly, hitting me anew. Sometimes it's triggered by something- a photo of him or being in a place where we used to go. Sometimes, like yesterday while out walking before it went dark, it was suddenly thinking about his hands, possibly because when we walked I'd hold his hand. Grief is a fucker, it sneaks up and crushes you and does it time and time again. Onward we go though, because there's nothing else to do, is there?
Today's music is more from James plus this blog's patron Andrew Weatherall. James moved to Rough Trade after leaving Sire and put out two singles that again should have been hits but weren't- Sit Down and Come Home. The latter was a November 1989 release, the Manchester scene well in the ascendancy, The Roses, Mondays and 808 State gatecrashing Top Of The Pops. Finally, leaving Rough Trade and washing up at Fontana, in June 1990 Come Home was re- released and made it through to radio and TV. According to Wiki it still only peaked at number 32- I thought it got much higher- but it slipped into indie disco and popular consciousness. It was remixed by Weatherall, a massive sounding summer of 90 indie- dance tune, a track that is all sirens and synths, a breakbeat and a huge bassline, a sample from Stutter, a lovely piano riff five minutes in, and that breathless Tim Booth refrain, 'and the way I feel just makes me want to scream/ come home/ come home/ come home'.
On some releases the remix is labelled the Andy Weatherall Remix, on some the Skunk Weed Skank Mix. It seems they are the same mix. I think Skunk Weed Skank seems more likely to be what Andrew would have titled it.