we have done what we wanted

8:40:00 AM

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry  
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.  
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.  
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.  
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain. 

I've been thinking a lot about this poem, my favorite, by Mark Strand. We have done what we wanted. That line has always resonated with me. What happens after we achieve. After we have done the thing we wanted the most. Ticked off a career accomplishment, bought a house or a flat before 30, mastered a sport, found love. Then what. Coming to this has its rewards, nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.

A lot of life is spent striving-- trying to be better, do better, get a better job, earn more money, be smarter, look smarter, earn in the early six figures, then have savings in the six, buy a house, buy a car, have a platform, have an opinion, consistently share that opinion, have a family, make sure your family is okay, keep everything together. 

Yet, in Strand's poem, the finality is chilling and reassuring. We have done what we wanted. There's an innate sense of achievement--we have done. A core value I believe in is creating. You justify your position on earth based on what you create. Whether that's cleanliness or financial order. Whether that's developing unique solutions to cyclical poverty or being a cyclist. You reaffirm your humanity based on, among other things, what you do. So in the first line, there's more than just achievement, there's humanity, we have done

There's also a question. We have done, now what? 

I've always associated those lines with freedom. No place to go, no reason to remain. The chance to choose a new direction. 

I met Mark Strand at the mid-manhattan NYPL a few months before he died. And I expressed my thoughts about this poem to him. I said it was my favorite. He wrinkled his nose, divorce. He said. And then shook his head.

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