“An undisputed literary event.” —NPR
“History—with its construction and its destruction—is at the heart of In the Lateness of the World. . . . In [it] one feels the poet cresting a wave—a new wave that will crash onto new lands and unexplored territories.” —Hilton Als, The New Yorker
Over four decades, Carolyn Forché’s visionary work has reinvigorated poetry’s power to awaken the reader. Her groundbreaking poems have been testimonies, inquiries, and wonderments. They daringly map a territory where poetry asserts our inexhaustible responsibility to one another.
Her first new collection in seventeen years, In the Lateness of the World is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. The world here seems to be steadily vanishing, but in the moments before the uncertain end, an illumination arrives and “there is nothing that cannot be seen.” In the Lateness of the World is a revelation from one of the finest poets writing today.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Museum of Stones
These are your stones, assembled in matchbox and tin,
collected from roadside, culvert, and viaduct,
battlefield, threshing floor, basilica, abattoir-
stones, loosened by tanks in the streets,
from a city whose earliest map was drawn in ink on linen,
schoolyard stones in the hand of a corpse,
pebble from Baudelaire's oui,
stone of the mind within us
carried from one silence to another,
stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, hornblende,
agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards,
chalk, marl, mudstone from temples and tombs,
stone from the silvery grass near the scaffold,
stone from the tunnel lined with bones,
lava of a city's entombment, stones
chipped from lighthouse, cell wall, scriptorium,
paving stones from the hands of those who rose against the army,
stones where the bells had fallen, where the bridges were blown,
those that had flown through windows, weighted petitions,
feldspar, rose quartz, blue schist, gneiss, and chert,
fragments of an abbey at dusk, sandstone toe
of a Buddha mortared at Bamian,
stone from the hill of three crosses and a crypt,
from a chimney where storks cried like human children,
stones newly fallen from stars, a stillness of stones, a heart,
altar and boundary stone, marker and vessel, first cast, load and hail,
bridge stones and others to pave and shut up with,
stone apple, stone basil, beech, berry, stone brake,
concretion of the body, as blind as cold as deaf,
all earth a quarry, all life a labor, stone-faced, stone-drunk
with hope that this assemblage of rubble, taken together, would become
a shrine or holy place, an ossuary, immovable and sacred
like the stone that marked the path of the sun as it entered the human dawn.
We were thirty-one souls, he said, in the gray-sick of sea
in a cold rubber boat, rising and falling in our filth.
By morning this didn't matter, no land was in sight,
all were soaked to the bone, living and dead.
We could still float, we said, from war to war.
What lay behind us but ruins of stone piled on ruins of stone?
City called "mother of the poor" surrounded by fields
of cotton and millet, city of jewelers and cloak-makers,
with the oldest church in Christendom and the Sword of Allah.
If anyone remains there now, he assures, they would be utterly alone.
There is a hotel named for it in Rome two hundred meters
from the Piazza di Spagna, where you can have breakfast under
the portraits of film stars. There the staff cannot do enough for you.
But I am talking nonsense again, as I have since that night
we fetched a child, not ours, from the sea, drifting face-
down in a life vest, its eyes taken by fish or the birds above us.
After that, Aleppo went up in smoke, and Raqqa came under a rain
of leaflets warning everyone to go. Leave, yes, but go where?
We lived through the Americans and Russians, through Americans
again, many nights of death from the clouds, mornings surprised
to be waking from the sleep of death, still unburied and alive
with no safe place. Leave, yes, we'll obey the leaflets, but go where?
To the sea to be eaten, to the shores of Europe to be caged?
To camp misery and camp remain here. I ask you then, where?
You tell me you are a poet. If so, our destination is the same.
I find myself now the boatman, driving a taxi at the end of the world.
I will see that you arrive safely, my friend, I will get you there.
Table of Contents
Museum of Stones 15
The Boatman 16
Water Crisis 17
Report from an Island 18
The Last Puppet 19
The Lightkeeper 21
The Crossing 22
For Ilya at Tsarskoye Selo 25
The Lost Suitcase 26
Last Bridge 28
Elegy for an Unknown Poet 30
Letter to a City Under Siege 32
Travel Papers 33
The Refuge of Art 38
A Room 40
The Ghost of Heaven 45
Ashes to Guazapa 48
Hue: From a Notebook 49
Morning on the Island 50
A Bridge 51
The End of Something 52
Early Life 53
In Time of War 56
Lost Poem 57
Light of Sleep 64
Early Confession 69
Toward the End 70
What Comes 72
Dedications and Notes 75