A Very Different Kind of Happy Place
Maybe the Most Perfect Word

Turning Inward

It's been . . . a weird week for me.  

Nothing "bad" or upsetting or out-of-the ordinary happened (y'know. . . given the times). Life is just trudging along and all. But I'm definitely becoming more . . . introspective . . . about things, the all of it. I'm thinking more and processing. I guess I'm moving along to the "finding meaning" part of the grief spectrum, maybe? 

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Anyway. When I turn inward and get more think-y, I turn to poetry even more than I usually do. So today, I'm sharing a poem that found particular traction for me this week. It's a little longer than poems I usually share here - and I may have shared it before in the past (although not terribly recently), because it's one of my favorites.  I hope you'll like it, too.


You Can't Have It All
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 toward 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.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace and things that bring you joy.

And maybe some poetry.


Today's poem was published in Bite Every Sorrow, 1998, Louisiana State University Press.  Information about the poet can be found here.



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I love the way this poem offers all kinds of things to choose from even when we're feeling faced with all the things we can't have.


Thank you for sharing that poem! It is perfect for my week too! XO


I think I say it every Friday, but you always seem to choose a poem that I need. This week I've been thinking about what has been lost and what may never be the same, but these words speak a beautiful counterpoint. I may not have a big family barbecue with new babies and hugs and love expressed freely without distance, but I can hear my grandmother's voice speaking to me. Thank you.

Gale Zucker

Again you’ve shared the perfect poem for the week. I’m very touched by this one. Thank you! This week I think I moved from very grouchy /easily annoyed to nostalgic . What a very weird year.


Thank-you and the end was perfect...I dreamed of my mom two nights ago and it had been a very long time. She spoke too which never, ever happens. Good things in tough times. xoxo


Beautiful, Kym ... the poem reminds me of some of the "paradox things" I'm recording in my journal this year for AND. Best wishes for your weekend, too!


What a powerful poem! It does speak volumes and is comforting. Wishing you a peaceful weekend with a touch of fun thrown in there somewhere.

kathy b

while the rest of the family slept" I love love love that


Lovely - thanks -- Have a good weekend.


That poem was totally worth the read! It's a good reminder that no matter what we're missing out on right now, we still have many things to be thankful for.


How much do I love this poem and its reminder of all we have in our lives. There is so much more time to live and discover what new avenues we will be taking and then remember them along with the many memories we have already accumulated.


There is this.
(Doing my best to go with the flow...)

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