In the Lateness of the World

In the Lateness of the World

by Carolyn Forché


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“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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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525560425
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/09/2021
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 269,327
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Carolyn Forché is an American poet, translator, and memoirist. Her books of poetry are Blue Hour, The Angel of History, The Country Between Us, and Gathering the Tribes. Her memoir, What You Have Heard Is True, was published by Penguin Press in 2019. In 2013, Forché received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship given for distinguished poetic achievement. In 2017, she became one of the first two poets to receive the Windham-Campbell Prize. She is a University Professor at Georgetown University. She lives in Maryland with her husband, photographer Harry Mattison.

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.

The Boatman

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

Exile 23

Fisherman 24

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

Tapestry 54

Visitation 55

In Time of War 56

Lost Poem 57

Charmolypi 58

Souffrance 59

Sanctuary 60

Uninhabited 61

Clouds 62

Passage 63

Light of Sleep 64

Theologos 65

Mourning 67

Transport 68

Early Confession 69

Toward the End 70

What Comes 72

Dedications and Notes 75

Acknowledgements 76

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