Determination, Poetry


yerka barn
When you can’t have what you want,
then want what you have.
That’s what They say anyway.

To me Their Zen feels too close to defeat,
and also, what about expanding?
Horizons, after all –
They have opinions on those too.

I’m concerned with the practical application
of advice widely considered
but not empirically shown
to be sage.
When you want what you have,
why even get out of bed?
Look here, They say:
count your blessings.
So maybe you do that too, make a list
of every item at the intersection of want and have.

You stick it on the fridge
next to one for groceries, one for chores
awakening in those routine scraps
a faint but pulsing force,
animate in comparison
to your crisp inventory of thanks.
While it’s true every to-do derives from deficit
it also presumes a future
and the power to make something of it.

Let’s be honest.
No one is blessed with expired mayonnaise
and a pile of filthy laundry.
You aspire to fresh condiments.
You covet clean socks.
Fulfillment dangles like the list itself:
within reach
given a decent supermarket,
an adequate paycheck,
and a few spare minutes to run the wash.

Maybe They in their fondness for pith and wit
prune a bit of truth from each axiom
and leave it to us to read the shape of the scars.

When the one you loved until you ran dry
doesn’t come back, They would have you yearn
only for absence.
They would have you thirst
for the taste of your own mouth.

I admit I have no credentials
and will never join Their ranks
so listen at your peril.
I say,
You don’t have to give thanks as you scrape
the bottom of the jar. You don’t have to want
empty arms.

They will accuse you of striving
but what do They know?
They’ve left behind the future,
having already carved their codas
into the mausoleum walls of history.

I say,
add a single word, a nod to ambition:
If you can’t have what you want
then want what you can have.

Choose not only the what
and the wanting
but also the true measure of your reach.

I say,
If not your dreams,
then moonlight
and an open road.
If not your native language,
then a voice
that echoes the song.

I say,
If not his skin
then lean out past the cramped
edges of now
and plunge your hands
into the place where power
meets desire
crouching in the dark.

Image: Jacek Yerka, Fantastic Barn

4 thoughts on “Can”

  1. Such a universal female gesture,
    a woman grabbing the seam of her stocking,
    tugging it forward over the exposed toe,
    tucking it under her foot so the tear won’t show.
    There’s something graceful and humble
    about the way she will balance, crane-like,
    on one foot, cradling the other in her hand,
    her back bent, her face tilted downward,
    trying to hide the damage of the splintered
    floorboard, or untrimmed toenail.
    Sometimes, while she’s leaning over,
    a strand will float loose from its ponytail.
    Then she’ll stand, recombing her hair
    with her hands, repair after tiny repair.

    “Woman with a Hole in Her Stocking” by Anya Krugovoy Silve

  2. Wow you are burning it out!
    “Maybe They in their fondness for pith and wit
    prune a bit of truth from each axiom
    and leave it to us to read the shape of the scars.”
    the river in it almost does encapsulate some challenging learning I’ve been engaging via Adam Phillips’ “Missing Out” (highly recommend) –
    “If you can’t have what you want
    then want what you can have.”
    much working around this sort of thing… and yet… the perhaps infinite variations of both loss and “ambition” or desire at each and every intersection of whatever it is we are…
    Great writing, thank you.

  3. At risk of sounding inane . . .

    If you can’t have what you want
    then ask yourself why you want it.
    Is it because (you believe) you can’t have it?

    And . . . what would you do with it if you got it?

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