The World Book Salesman


Something rather noteworthy happened in the summer of 1968: in Lincoln that August, the Canadian swimmer Ralph Hutton set the world record for the Men’s 400 meters freestyle swimming event. In addition, the novelist and poet Raymond Carver had a piece published in the Prairie Schooner. These events took place during a moderately warm yet rainy summer; September of that year still ranks among Lincoln’s top-ten wettest Septembers.

by Tory Clower

The World Book Salesman
Raymond Carver

He holds conversation sacred
though a dying art. Smiling,
by turns, he is part toady,
part Oberführer. Knowing when
is the secret.
Out of the slim briefcase come
maps of all the world;
deserts, oceans,
photographs, art work—
it is all there, all there
for the asking
as the doors swing open, crack,
or slam
In the empty
rooms each evening, he eats
alone, watches television, reads
the newspaper with a lust
that begins and ends in the fingertips.
There is no God,
and conversation is a dying art.