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
hands

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.

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