Thursday, March 30, 2006

You Can't Have It All -- Barbara Ras

You Can't Have It All

by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands

gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger

on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.

You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look

of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite

every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,

you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,

though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam

that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys

until you realize foam's twin is blood.

You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,

so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,

glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,

never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you

all roads narrow at the border.

You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,

and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave

where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,

but you can have the words forgive and forget hold

as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful

for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful

for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels

sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,

for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,

the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.

You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,

at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping

of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.

You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd

but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,

how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,

until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,

and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind

as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,

you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond

of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas

your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.

There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,

it will always whisper, you can't have it all,

but there is this.

From Bite Every Sorrow by Barbara Ras, published by Louisiana State University Press, 1998. Copyright © 1997 by Barbara Ras. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Success -- She's a Master!

I have to say, I'm really proud of myself.

I'm a perfectionist and an overachiever, so I don't say those words lightly or often.

I really accomplished something, and it feels damn good.

The thesis defense went off without a hitch. I had several old friends and schoolmates who were there to cheer me on, not to mention my mother and 92 year old grandfather (nose dripping and everything).

The committee asked hard questions, but I answered them all -- maybe not well or elegantly, but I at least had something to say to each. Their questions lasted for 45 minutes, and then the audience asked another 20 minutes worth. It was a lively discussion for sure.

All in all, this degree has been in some sense 6 years in the making. 2 years in Chicago and 4 here in ABQ. When it came down to it, I was able to sustain the effort. Grueling and panic-inducing as it was.

So now? Stay tuned for what I dream up next. This weekend is for poetry -- writing a code of conduct for the poetry community -- no kidding -- and an introduction for an anthology of poems from Route Words, Albuquerque's version of Seattle's Poetry on the Bus program.

Thanks for playing, all you supporters!

This girl did you proud.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Seventh Day

cleaning up after boys
the folding

finding places again
for all that spilled
onto ticking sheets

this pile of words
fabrics washed fresh
bleached surfaces

so now I rest
clean as the day

he made me
now I make me
beyond re-approach

plants watered

me thirsty
trying not to drink
the desert being safer

for solitary camels
in winter
not thinking of oasis

the coming sun
carrying loneliness
in two humps

the moon slipping romance
over sleeping volcanoes
to the east

tucking one more dream
beyond one more distant


Today I'm bitter about love. Maybe I have time to think about it now.

There's this repeating image of the man who wants/respects/adores/admires me who just can't choose me, for whatever reason. I'm sick of it.

To indulge this little pity-party moment, a selection of past poems of love and bile:


Ice fault lines shift with starlight winds

you shivering with fear that is not cold

me stroking shed skin

realizing suddenly

I have always been alone.

What was it you saw in my face

peering down darkness

edged with dashboard lights?

Could you have taken the thread

to unhem my patched-up life

left the pattern

sewn up a future

like trousseau

in the folds of myself?

Strength is smiling into half-dead eyes

feeling the air rushing past

falling into unlined pit

knowing if I get there

no one will help me land

jumping in anyway

again and again and again and again.

Fall 2002


She couldn’t see past the feel of disappointment

that heard her lying to herself

and rebelled.

He couldn’t smell the rotten parts

atrophying in the narrowed sites

of his once-straight desire.

In all the wrong ways

they were together


the solution

to all the problems

their love began.

He croaked and she twittered

but the bird and the frog

both grounded

hunkered down and unfeeling




than the rigid noose solution

of their falling-apart love.

June 2004

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

All Work and No Play Make Mikaela Spiritually Bereft

Time to return to the flock. Which one? See here.

The bestest ever reverend has blogs now! (She's on sabbatical.)
Check out:

And me? Who am I as a Unitarian Universalist?

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: The Machine Gun of Courteous Debate.

Get yours.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Birthings and birth things.

Let's start with the time. Please note: 1:44 am.

Once again, I'm at work printing. Deep into the morning. Coffee cold and worn off.

But it's as done as it's going to be. For now.

364 pages later, and you know what I've learned? A thesis is like a black hole. The closer you get to it, the more energy it sucks. The more energy you give, the bigger and suckier it gets.

So now it sucks, trust me.

Six chapters. 93 Figures. 20 Tables. Well over 100 sources. Not sure how many footnotes. Around 50.

A long labor, to be sure.

Other announcements: an old and dear friend just became a father. It's complicated, but he sounds blissful, and it's good to hear him happy.

It's strange to me -- and not subtle -- that one of the only things I've ever been really clear about is wanting to have kids. And having kids or not having kids has been one reason propelling me out of relationships. Yet many of the men I've dated now how children. Hmmm... Try not to take that one personally! It does and it doesn't have anything to do with me. Like most things.

It's also strange to be at the end of such a long process with nothing but paper to show for it. Lots of paper. Lots of paper that takes fucking FOREVER to print.

I never really thought I would finish. Something about perfectionism made easier when you don't actually finish anything you might be able to judge imperfect.

But poking and prodding and cajoling and supporting by multiple friends has gotten me here: the other side.

Is it myself I've labored to pull through?

A new future come to light?

What light through yonder window breaks? It comes from the east. It has stories.

I'm listening.