From Red Doc

GOODLOOKING BOY wasn’t he / yes/ blond /

yes / I do vaguely

/ you never liked

him / bit of a

rebel / so you

said / he’s the

one wore lizard

pants and


pearls to graduation / which at the time you admired /

they were good pearls /

you said he reminded you



your friend Mildred / Mildred taught me everything I

know she taught me how

to entertain / you must



her / I miss her martinis [stubs cigarette] so what’s he

up to now / just got out of

the army / wounded /


messed up / are they giving him care / a guy shows

up with a padded envelope

of drugs every night I



it’s care / he staying with you / for a while / behaving

himself / some days he sits

around reading Christina


Rossetti some days he comes out of the bathroom

covered in camouflage

paint / keep him away



your herd / did I tell you I finished Proust / oh yes /

seven years / can you

reach me


those matches behind you / reading it every day /

thanks / was like having

an extra unconscious /

well I’m


not fond of those multivolume things / there’s the

part where he’s comparing

his Tante Léonie to a

waterlily /


she’s a swimmer / no she’s a neurasthenic / I don’t get

it / well she’s old nervous

lives in a single room

trapped in her little


train of habits the pills the pains the spying out the

window / hmmm / a

waterlily caught in a

current he


says / could be too late for me to appreciate Proust on

the other hand I’m at a loss

I’ve read all the Len


Deightons in the library / hundreds of people visit his

home every year some just

burst into tears / Len


Deighton / no Proust / say remember that time we

were driving and crashed /

what time / I forget where

it was I


was driving no you were driving I was looking out

the window all of a

sudden I thought I saw a

deer racing


out a driveway so I start to just then my brain flashes

on it being a wooden lawn

ornament not a real one



yelled so loud you drove

off the road into a guy’s

hedge and


burst into tears [she laughs he laughs] / speaking of

tears / listen [gets out a

cigarette] to that wind /

storm coming / or is it the

traffic / wind I think /

from the north sounds like

/ so your surgery is



for when / the 25th / you want me to come with you /

no dear / well if you

change your mind / I



change my mind / I can easily / thanks though / well

/ [glances down at her

crossword] I’ll be fine /

well so / time for you to

go / I’ll call on the

weekend / take some of

those apples they’re the

kind you like

Dive in

  1. What do we know about the two people having a conversation in this poem?
  2. What do we know about the person they are describing?
  3. How would you characterize the relationship of the two people talking? Close? Strained? Loving? Guarded?
  4. What tone do you feel in the poem? Does it change?
  5. If you were going to recite this poem, how would you indicate the shifts back and forth between two voices?
  6. Write a poem that is a dialogue between two people that runs together so that the reader experiences two personalities connecting and contrasting against each other.

Useful Links


A profile of Anne Carson in The New York Times:


A collaboration by Anne Carson and a dance company:

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Bibliographical info

Excerpt from Red Doc>. Copyright © 2013 by Anne Carson. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Red Doc> (McClelland & Stewart, 2013)

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