Words of WonderLate Fragment - Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

by Raymond Carver


This was the last poem in Raymond Carver’s last book, written while he was dying of cancer. It is also the inscription on his tombstone.

Last week I watched a film called Maudie. It is the true story of a Canadian woman, born with arthritis, who becomes a well-known folk artist, without trying to. Really, she only wants to find love and to modestly celebrate the beauty of life through her art.

Maud Lewis

Maud Lewis

These humble wishes are symbolised by her gesturing to the window of her little wooden house and saying something like ‘See that? There life is already framed.’ She finds joy and creativity in the midst of adversity, because she ‘doesn’t want for much’. Her last words (which I won’t write here to avoid a spoiler!), have much the same message as Raymond Carver’s above.

Life’s modern complexity, with information abounding, gives me the sense that the whole world is my business. This does not make for a simple life where I stay connected to what is essential. Maudie didn’t have a phone or the internet. Is it even possible to live with that wise innocence anymore?

I do feel that I can turn towards what is essential as an intentional practice though, finding fragments of it everywhere. Even right here and now, as I write, my son just snuggled towards me for a moment of affection and I kissed his head. There it was.

It’s my wish to never pass over the fragments of beauty, love and joy that are freely given every day in the maelstrom of living. Recently I read a beautiful story that goes like this. Once, a disciple asked his rabbi why it was that one could find fragments of love scattered throughout the world, but never the Love itself. The rabbi replied, ‘It is like a great king who once had a precious gemstone, which he shattered into countless pieces. He scattered these fragments throughout his kingdom, saying, “Those who find these fragments will come to me, and I will give them the whole Gem in return.” In the same way, Love, which is the most precious thing in the world, has been broken into countless pieces and scattered far and wide. Those who find these fragments and cherish them will ultimately find their way to Love itself.'”

Poetry often comes from the position of longing for a more ultimate love. Richard Canver’s poem is striking because it speaks simply from a place where all else has dropped away. The ‘even so’ gives a nod to the complexity and tribulations of his life, making his words relatable. But in the end, after a life of countless fragments, in the final fragment, there the Gem is.

Fay Adams

PS Ps. If you’d like to explore these themes and other similar ones through poetry coupled with mindfulness you might be interested in the 6 Week Mystical Poetry Meets Mindfulness course which begins on the 22nd of May.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash