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Room Service

Poems, Meditations, Outcries & Remarks

Ron Carlson

Publication Year: 2012

How did one of America’s most gifted fabulists come to write a collection of poetry? For thirty years, Ron Carlson has joked about writing one poem a year, and to look for his book of them in 2012. The joke came true: Room Service: Poems, Meditations, Outcries and Remarks is a genre-bending collection of traditional verse, prose poetry, microfiction, and—why not?—a play or two, dancing easily from the lyrical to the surreal to the comical, capturing the long sweep of life’s simple necessities and small triumphs. Brimming with Carlson’s signature good humor, these pieces were written over many years in many places, and are unified, as befits a first book of poetry, by hope. Room Service reminds us why poetry is necessary, and will leave you wondering what took him so long.

Published by: Red Hen Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Acknowledgments

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pp. 7-10

Part I

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pp. 11-14

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Room Service

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p. 15-15

We called room service, just to see, and they sent up a room, and it was good so we ordered another, this time with a view and it was lovely and there was plenty of, well, room, I mean this was light and airy which is what you want sometimes, and we enjoyed it every bit, and then we wanted something small and private without a terrace and we ordered that and sat closer together which was very nice. ...

Poetry’s Debt to Invention

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p. 16-16

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The Great Open-Mouth Anti-Sadness

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p. 17-17

After the wedding, drunk but not that drunk, Button lay arms-out across the bed. His tie dangled from one hand, and he wasn’t surprised to feel it tugged at and then hauled suddenly away. The cat. He closed his hand. Yes, it was empty. He closed his eyes and opened his hand; then he closed his hand again and opened his eyes. Amazing the way a person is wired. ...


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p. 18-18

A Brown Dog Sleeps on a Rag Rug

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pp. 19-20

Time of Day

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p. 21-21


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p. 22-22

How Death is Not a Thing

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p. 23-23

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p. 24-24

The King died. Long live the King. Then the Queen died. She was buried beside him. The King died and then the Queen died of grief. This was the posted report. And no one said a thing. But you can’t die of grief. It can take away your appetite and keep you in your chamber, but not forever. It isn’t terminal. ...

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Homeschool Insider: The Fighting Pterodactyls

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pp. 25-26

When we finally decided on homeschool for my sister Joylene and me, our first challenge was to select a mascot. After all, I’d been a Cougar at Big River Elementary and Joylene had been a Leopard at the high school, and now at our house who were we? We settled on the Fighting Pterodactyls, because it sounded terrific and used one of my spelling words. ...

There Were Two of Them in the Car

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pp. 27-28

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Class Remarks

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pp. 29-30

My fellow students. Time’s winged chariot heads our way loaded down with the complexities of our demanding future, and I’d like to meet the challenges of tomorrow fully prepared and not encumbered by the quaint instruments of yesterday. I don’t feel encumbered, but how do you ever know? If the goal is to be cumbered; bring it on. ...

One Woman

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p. 31-31

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Utah Cabin Under Heaven, July 3

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pp. 32-33

Today is Insect Day in this world, and the sun has invented all of these creatures who now work ceaselessly in the grasses and trees surrounding the cabin: the bees, ten kinds of bees, some who whistle or is it sizzle as they bump against the eaves in some kind of labor; and the flies, twenty kinds, some very small who still retain the ability to bite, ...

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The Genius of Women’s Wear

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p. 34-34

Uncertainty roams the city freely, unchecked by traffic rules or time of day, making itself at home everywhere, even in the big houses and the small houses and the places of commerce and trade, and it can winnow into the smallest places, the left ventricle and the right ventricle, any ventricle it chooses, all of them really, and it can perch heavily on me, ...

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The Gunslinger’s Lamentation

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pp. 35-36

When it’s twilight in a town like this and the street glows and the horses whisper or seem to whisper and the big cottonwoods behind the mercantile begin to whisper or seem to whisper and the creek along side the livery stable whispers and it is whispering certainly, then I always get a hankering to put down my guns for good, and all the ways of the gun ...

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Anaconda, a Giant Invader

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pp. 37-38

Everybody knew the anaconda lived in Dark Lake. Or it lived in the jungle. It lived in a place that people didn’t go everyday, because the anaconda, which was a giant invader, wasn’t seen everyday. Our family had never been to Dark Lake; we weren’t lake goers. We’d never been to Lonely Lake either. And the jungle was too far. ...

Part II

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pp. 39-40

The Chance

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p. 41-41

A Simple Note on How Best to Use This Humble Bookmark

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p. 42-42

What I did not teach you about poetry

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pp. 43-45

The Bull

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p. 46-46

The Chapman Branch

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pp. 47-48

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How to Win Her Heart

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pp. 49-50

I’ve always liked what that one guy said in that one book about being able to stand up anywhere in Salt Lake City to see exactly where you are; it’s an open place, held in the hands of the mountains like a big book. I grew up on the West Side across Main Street and the railroad tracks and, in fact, the river. ...

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The Teeming Urban Scene

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p. 51-51

You gather everything you value and this means all the good stuff, the special things in your room, the baseball with your father’s handwriting on it, for example, and your letters, those you’ve written by hand and typed for years, those from the living and the dead, as well as photographs and anecdotes from history, report cards, all your teachers’ names, ...

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My America House Car Store

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pp. 52-53

Soldiers were dying and we heard about it, but we didn’t know what it meant or what to do about it. We didn’t even know how to talk about it. We didn’t know if they were dying for the cause, because we didn’t know the cause. Sometimes a man would comb his hair and appear on television and talk about the cause, and by the time he was finished speaking all we knew about was his hair. ...

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The Nihilist

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pp. 54-55

He was on a plane again and now it was late, he’d missed a connection in Denver, and the west was dark and the big plane flew west in the night. It was half full and the people had spread out and the men were sprawled on three seats sleeping where they could. ...

Brendan, Born at Easter

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pp. 56-57

Don and Hugh

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pp. 58-59

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After the Animal Fair

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p. 60-60

Let’s concede that you were there at the moment in question. It had largely been an long uneventful day at the fair. The exhibits, while not extravagant, were satisfactory. You had been strolling for hours and needed a cold drink and a rest. It was warm and the air smelled of feathers and hair, and by evening you were tired. ...

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pp. 61-62

There will be four papers in this course, three informal response papers to the text, and one research paper which will be on one of the selected topics. The research paper will include ten footnotes applied in the manner of the Sheboygan Style Guide available in the Department Office on the eleventh floor of Lincoln Hall. ...

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The Barn Door

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p. 63-63

Okay, let me think. The horse has run away. We agree on this. I don’t see the horse and we know the horse is not in the barn. Either the horse ran away because the barn door was left open or the horse opened the door and ran away. A horse could open a barn door, believe me. I’ve seen some horses that could do algebra, drive, arrange flowers. ...

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The First Morning at Humarock

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pp. 64-65

He woke in his bed under the open window and the great volumes of sea air were still rolling into the room. He closed his eyes and felt the heft of the air filling the room. The air had been working all night while he slept and now he sat up and then stood in it and felt it polishing his body, and though he was slow to smile, he smiled. ...


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p. 66-66

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My America Sleep

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pp. 67-68

These were the years when people’s teeth were getting whiter. It wasn’t noticeable at first and then, sure enough, their teeth were changing. They had been okay, for teeth, and now they were growing whiter. People were whitening their teeth, a little whiter one day, and then real white. Very white teeth. Bright teeth, so white it was hard to look. ...

Part III

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pp. 69-70

Word Gets Out

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p. 71-71

Say Hello to Copper Bob

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p. 72-72

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My America Notwithstanding

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pp. 73-74

It was the worst of times. That’s it, no follow up. No: but this or that or on the other hand or yet or still or notwithstanding. It would have been great to hear: It was the worst of times, notwithstanding something or other. We didn’t know what notwithstanding meant, but come on, it’s wonderful. We’ll save it for the name of one of our children, the nickname possibilities are manifold. ...

The Boss of Me

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p. 75-75

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The Final Shark Story

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p. 76-76

We were worried all the time. We’d been worried from the get go. Who isn’t? Oh my god, the worry. Then we got past the ugly incidents with the Mummy and the Mummy’s curse which had been a tough time all around. During that deal, we worried night and day. They said, Oh the Mummy doesn’t know where you live. Just go about your life. ...

In Dwindgore

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p. 77-77

Accidents in the Home

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p. 78-78

Motel Letter

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p. 79-79

Elements of Courtship

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p. 80-80

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In the Old Firehouse

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pp. 81-82

I decided that we were in the old firehouse after some kind of fire, undressing, and the feeling was the same old feeling, that is everyone wanted to get drunk, but we could not do that, so we undressed heavily and breathed heavily, each breath a full pint, and I sat on a stool beside the bed and pulled off my left sock and then my right sock, each sock like the weight of the day. ...

Max Who Caught a Car

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p. 83-83

The Neighborhood So Far

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p. 84-84


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p. 85-85


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p. 86-86

The Execution

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pp. 87-88

The Reason We Have Schools

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pp. 89-90

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South Pacific

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p. 91-91

We were at the Highland Drive-in Movie Theatre, six of us in my father’s 1956 Chevrolet after having been to the Hot Shoppes and then cruising State, three boys and three girls and not one pair in the gang, out on Friday night, a lark, and we entered the drive-in on a boast with Murdock and Kent in the trunk, emerging in the rippled rows of cars, laughing, and saying, what is the movie? ...

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My America Coffee

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p. 92-92

These were the days when we carried coffee. We’d carry it to our car and we had cupholders. We drove coffee around. Seriously, coffee was driven for miles: cross town, out of town, around the block. We were driving the coffee and then after parking, we walked the coffee over there. Mostly we took it to buildings and up the elevator and this was a hot beverage. ...

No Really There’s Something way across the Lake

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p. 93-93

Ars Poetica

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pp. 94-95

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About the Author

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p. 96-96

Ron Carlson is the author of nine books of fiction, most recently The Signal. His short stories have appeared in Esquire, Harpers, The New Yorker, and other journals, as well as The Best American Short Stories, The O’Henry Prize Series, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction and other anthologies. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781597093248
Print-ISBN-13: 9781597092333
Print-ISBN-10: 1597092339

Page Count: 96
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: First