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At Least by Raymond Carver

At Least
Raymond Carver

I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the water as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

MARGINALIA

1.
The poem begins with a want—a deep desire to experience the early morning. You know how it is—how the yearning is not just about waking up early, but about embracing the quiet. I, too, have most times yearned for the clarity of the world before it becomes consumed by the day’s hustle.

2.
I wonder about the little boat of my life, which rides the waves day in and day out—how I move with the rhythms of the universe, regardless of my preoccupations. Have I always kept an eye out for answers?

3.
I hate to seem greedy—and yet I long for a deeper understanding of life. I long for more time, more occasions for loving, and more genuine experiences. I want to hold onto the beauty and routine of life, to witness the ordinary and draw from it a sense of purpose and understanding. I sit here and ask myself: how many mornings more?

KEEP READING
Where Water Comes Together with Other Water by Raymond CarverSOURCE

This poem appeared in Where Water Comes Together with Other Water by Raymond Carver, published by Vintage Books, 1986. Shared here with profound gratitude.

DESCRIPTION

“An illuminating collection of poems from the middle of Carver’s career that “function as distilled, heightened versions of his stories, offering us fugitive glimpses of ordinary lives on the edge” — The New York Times

ENDNOTES
DEAR READER

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ON THIS DAY

Comments (6)

  • Jim

    I want to wake up some morning and be in fifth grade again,
    when life was sugar sweet and filled with so many tomorrows.

    I want to ride my red bike up and down the little town’s streets
    where I lived, my ol’ dog running along side, just to feel the
    sheer joy of doing it again.

    I want to slide my hand inside that old three-fingered baseball
    mitt again, to smell the leather, and watch a fly-ball arcing through
    the sky that comes smacking into its netting.

    I want to put my old steel guitar across my thighs and play, “In the Mood,”
    like I once could, just to hear it coming from me, again.

    I want to buy a corsage for her green and blue prom dress and take her
    to Homecoming again, like we did when we were seventeen.

    I want to sit in the evenings with her, me with a glass of scotch whiskey,
    her with her Diet-Coke, a fire in the fireplace, and watch old
    black and white film-noirs on Turner Classic Movies.

    I want to write these thoughts as clearly on this paper as they were
    in my head in the wee hours while still in bed this morning.

    I hate to seem as though I’m as old as I am and should write
    memoirs like people my age sometimes do,

    But I want to share these thoughts and ideas with you, maybe while
    we relax under a shade tree down by the river while watching the geese
    flying overhead and the boats going by.

    reply
  • Amy

    enjoyed your play on one of my favorite poems of all time…. very sweet, and evocative. Age is a feeling…..may your memories keep you young

    reply
  • Caitrine

    Ah, so beautifully done. This was one of my dad’s favorite poems and he would recite it at the dinner table after a good meal with us reunited again. I miss him.

    reply
  • I have been thinking –= ever since our enforced aloneness during the pandemic — about solitude. Even now, when we can (more or less) go about our regular business, I am much more attached to the solitude of early morning — and early evening — as a meditative time to be a human being between the onslaught of “doing”. I can sometimes enjoy it with others, but the solitude is precious. This poem touched that place in me.

    reply

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