And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
I've been a fan of Raymond Carver's short stories from the first I picked them up. His direct, un-sentimental views into the lives of average people and their desperate struggles are endearing and heartbreaking without being cloying or preachy. That said, I had never explored his poetry. I'm delighted to find it as direct and unvarnished as his short stories.
Structured somewhat like a dialogue between two people, the poem asks us, the reader, to really think about what it is we want from life. To feel beloved is Carver's answer. What else could we want, really? I particularly like the way the line break lends an almost double significance to the last two lines. When I read it, "to feel myself" and "to feel myself beloved on the earth" both stand out. To feel oneself is powerful. A sense of wholeness and self is critical to being a full person. Maslow called it self-actualization, and I think that's what we all seek and need, ultimately. Asked, out of all things in life, if he got what he wanted, Carver knew that he had, because he could call himself beloved.
To "call" oneself beloved has a hint of ego about it, but I don't see it as vain. Here it seems like an affirmation of love, of belonging, and of wholeness of self, rather than vanity or pride. The answer, a short, content, "I did" is plain and powerful. Carver's language is not flowery, but common and shared. The sentiment is beautiful rather than the language. Reading the poem aloud, it's not particularly pretty, but it is calming. I've always had an affinity for short form poetry, because I feel like economy of speech and directness of sentiment can make a poem very disarming, and here, with a mere six lines, Carver simply and directly states what he got out of life.