OnPoEvMo: What is the What, August 2007

I recently finished reading Dave Egger’s What is the What — a harrowing and yet ultimately uplifting fictionalized true story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. It really is a fine novel and you should run out and get it right this second. The What in the title refers to an ancient tale of the main character’s village in which the original people were asked to choose between a world of food and shelter, and the unknown, the What. They chose the world of food and shelter, and spent the rest of their days wondering what is the What that they missed out on, considering the violence and sadness of this world.

Inspired by the book, I wrote this poem for my One Poem Every Month for a Year project and thought I might try it as a spoken word/music piece with my Looper software. It is a slightly strange production, I’ll admit right upfront.

 

What is the What
August 2007
Listen to the Poem

What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What?
What is the What?
What is the What
is what the question is

What is the What
is what the question is
that takes us back in time
to the choices faced by our ancestors
whose voices climb up through the past
and whose ideas are marred by the
two diverging paths
and we live in this aftermath
of not attaining the What, which is the unknown,
the unspeakable,
since what was clearly decided at the start of the world
was to take this place as we see it today –
with animals for food
with walls for shelter
with family for survival
and to steer clear of the other — the What –

and what is the What is the question
that haunts us even to this day because
we came away with all of the above — yes, even love –
but also pain and hurt,
and death, destruction, violence,
such hatred inside of us that there are those of us
who spend the days, asking ourselves,
pleading with our Gods,
murmuring to the well of the world,
wondering,
what is the What
and where has it gone
and why didn’t those poor souls choose the unknown

although
if truth be told
who can blame them
when all they wanted was to behold a land that held
food for empty bellies
and a room to escape the rains and the bone-chilling cold
and they weren’t thinking that the other road — the What –
might hold something truer, deeper,
more spiritual than this, this …
space of dead dreams.
So what is the What is what sinks below the surface
and drives us forward, even today,
toward something we can’t hold in our hands
can’t take it for granted
can’t understand how we got planted here
without the What
and yet, you can approach it –
move towards it –
when you consort with others of a similar mind
to try to find some kind of balance
between the world we were given
and the world, denied.

What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What?
What is the What?
What is the What
is what the question is

Peace (in the unknown),
Kevin

 

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