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Carver wrote “Late Fragment,” his last poem from his final published work, A New Path to the Waterfall, as he was dying of cancer. (Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

Things Worth Remembering: Did You Get What You Wanted From This Life?

Raymond Carver is best known for his short stories. But his six-line poem asks—and answers—the only question that really matters.

Welcome back to Douglas Murray’s Sunday column, Things Worth Remembering, where he presents passages from great poets he has committed to memory—and explains why you should, too. To listen to Douglas read Raymond Carver’s “Late Fragment,” click below:

I am conscious that I have neglected American poets, though, as I said before, you cannot really control what sticks in your head. I am also aware that a number of the poems in this selection are tricky to learn in full. Others are chunks of much bigger poems. Which is why, today, I want to highlight this six-line poem by a wonderful American writer: Raymond Carver.

Were it not for the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, I might never have come across “Late Fragment.” In 2004, Holloway wrote a moving book called Looking in the Distance: The Human Search for Meaning

As he said there, reflecting on Socrates and the life unexamined, “When taking stock, we should be honest about what we have done badly, making every effort, before it is too late, to mend relationships we have damaged; but we should also affirm what we have done well in our journey through life.” 

As he says, all lives have their share of sadness and pleasure, and while some of it is in our control, we also have to accept that much of it is not. There are cards we are dealt we can do nothing about, and others we can only use as best we can. 

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