Graveside poetry & pie: Late Fragment by Raymond Carver
Original letterpress poetry broadside of the poem “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver, from A New Path to the Waterfall, Atlantic Monthly Press. Used by permission of Tess Gallagher.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
I first read Carver’s poem "Late Fragment" twelve years ago when my best friend's dad died. I was moved to print it in those flurried raw early days after, not quite knowing what a poetry broadside was, let alone that it would be the first of so many. It was a simple thing I made, and a necessary one. A way to grapple with un-grappable feeling.
Such a useful way, it turns out, for myself and many others, that it's become my life's work. One poem at a time. Letter by letter, loss by loss, love by love. I learned a lot from that first broadside, which I printed at Stern & Faye Printers—from adding magnesium carbonate to combat loose ink, to the ethics and importance of permissions, to the way a work of art can live beyond the artist.
Never did I imagine myself more than a decade later, standing in front of Raymond Carver's grave on his birthday, reading this poem to his loved ones at their annual pie and poetry gathering in his honor. After a beaming introduction of me from my friend Tess Gallagher, from whom I've learned so much, with such generosity.
That happened on Wednesday! Yes, two days ago. It was a rainy day and then a sunny day, with eagles flying overhead and a good wind whipping through the trees and off across the straits. It was also the day before my birthday, a connection I knew but had forgotten. Gifts upon gifts. Discovered, recovered, given again.
Tess' closing words at the cemetery were about love. About the love we give and how it gives back. How the more generously we love the more abundant we live and get to grow. Then we ate a lot of pie. I had five different kinds and took a whole one home!
I offer you this poem anew with love and so much gratitude. I wish you all the loving and growing you can stand, and then some. May all you give that's good come back to you.
About Raymond Carver
American short story writer Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, OR in 19838 and lived his last years in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula with Tess Gallagher. Known for his minimalist style, he wrote many poems as well. “Late Fragment” is the last poem he wrote and was first published in A New Path to the Waterfall by Atlantic Monthly Press, then later in his collected poems, All of Us.
Alongside the poem “Gravy,” “Late Fragment” is inscribed on Raymond Carver’s tombstone at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles.
The poem "Late Fragment" is from A New Path to the Waterfall, Atlantic Monthly Press. Copyright 1989 Raymond Carver. Used by permission of Tess Gallagher.
Thanks to Tess Gallagher for permission to print this poem and for the grace with which she forgave me for not knowing to ask the first time around. Gratitude too for her generous heart and language, and for the twinkly true well-spoken way she lives.
A few weeks ago I read Tess' poem "Choices" on Poetry Lunch. The story that poured out of me when I went to caption the video was the impetus for creating this new print.
Thanks to Holly Hughes for connecting me to Tess and for always reading and encouraging my wandering into poetry and printing.
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