I wrote this morning of a poem I wasn’t able to find. I found it. It’s a little prose-poem by Dag Hammarskjold in his book, Markings:
“What next? Why ask? Next will come a demand about which you already know all you need to know: that its sole measure is your own strength.” Dag Hammarskjold Markings p. 129
In looking through the book for the first time in many years, I was struck again by its beauty and how differently I read it at 68 and 356 days.
” 11.19-20.55 The light died in the low clouds. Falling snow drank in the dusk. Shrouded in silence, the branches wrapped me in their peace. When the boundaries were erased, once again the wonder: that I exist.” Markings 113
We all want to know “what’s next” but seriously; if someone had told us in, say, November of 2019 what 2020 would hold would we have believed them? And right now? I don’t now if it’s even possible NOT to ask that question, having (all of us) balanced on the edge of 2020 for so many months. It’s a useless question, though, unless it pertains to a project one is engaged it because we can’t ever really know.
There’s a small lovely poem about that ringing in my mind but I can’t find it. I know it was written by Dag Hammarskjold and I know it’s in this book:
But I’m not finding it. The first line, “What next? Why ask?” and then it goes on to say that whatever it is that’s next, it will demand everything.
Most of the books on the shelves in the featured photo are books I can’t part with. Many are Chinese novels and books by Chinese writers, poets and historians. On the top shelf are some books that served me in projects I enjoyed working on. Projects are great because they answer that “what next?” question that haunts all us humans. But really, it’s none of our business. Whatever it is, we have to live through it (if we are lucky).
In strange dark times my go-to answer comes from the Bible. I like to combine a couple of different versions — King James and the Wycliffe Bible — in my ideal Bible verse. It’s Matthew 6:34:
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficeth to the day his own malice.” Sometimes it does seem that the day is actually malicious. 🙂
If I find Dag Hammarskjold’s poem, I’ll add it, but right now Teddy wants his coffee and I have signs to paint and a couple of happy dogs to take out into the snow later.
“If you didn’t see my surfboard, Lamont, you might want to get your eyes checked. C’mon. Lets grab a few before…”
“Before what? The apocalypse?”
“Wow. Don’t you have a TV interview later?”
“Yeah, but the thrill is gone.”
“Nothin’ left to say?”
“Excuse me, but there are waves to catch. Enjoy your pity party.”
“Lamont, you’ve probably had a millions of birthdays already. What’s up with this one?”
“It’s that human curse, Dude. You’ve had it. Fucking mortality.”
“YOU are worried about mortality?”
“Don’t be so smug. Remember when you turned 46?”
“Oh yeah, that was bad. Wait, which time? Do I see a smile, Lamont? C’mon, do I? Do I?”
“No, really which time?”
“Second to last, I think. You were all feeling sorry for yourself because you weren’t hot any more.”
“I was a chick?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“I felt so sorry for you I had a birthday party. Do you remember this at all?”
“Whoa, was this when you were that bizarre Austrian Nazi piano restorer living behind his shop in Lemon Grove?”
“Yeah, that time.”
“Oh, Lamont, that was so sweet. How could I ever forget that! You put candles all over the floor from the front door to your apartment in back. You made potatoes and burned steak and melted cheese. You invited your two other friends.”
“That cheese was Raclette.”
“Yeah. Oh, Lamont. You’re right. I was pretty miserable that birthday.”
“Didn’t the party make you feel better?”
“So you want a party?”
“I can burn you a steak later. Will that help?”
“No, Dude. I’ll shake it off. Just what’s next?”
“What’s ever next?”
~~~ Thus It Was
I am being driven forward Into an unknown land. The pass grows steeper, The air colder and sharper. A wind from my unknown goal Stirs the strings of expectation.
Still the question: Shall I ever get there? There where life resounds, A clear pure note In the silence. Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything. If this little story amused you, you can read HUNDREDS (yikes!) more by searching “Lamont and Dude.”