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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Ras
Barbara Ras
Barbara Ras was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1949, and educated...
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FURTHER READING
Carpe Diem
A Shropshire Lad, II
by A. E. Housman
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world's a stage]
by William Shakespeare
Three Airs for the Beggar’s Opera, Air XXII
by John Gay
Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene III [O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?]
by William Shakespeare
A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Song On the End of the World
by Czeslaw Milosz
Another Song [Are they shadows that we see?]
by Samuel Daniel
Anything Can Happen
by Seamus Heaney
Archaic Torso of Apollo
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Barter
by Sara Teasdale
Be Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire
Carpe Diem: Poems for Making the Most of Time
Daphnis and Chloe
by Haniel Long
Days
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dreams
by Langston Hughes
Exact
by Rae Armantrout
First Fig
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I Have News for You
by Tony Hoagland
I saw a man pursuing the horizon
by Stephen Crane
I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl (443)
by Emily Dickinson
If—
by Rudyard Kipling
Live Blindly and Upon the Hour
by Trumbull Stickney
My life closed twice before its close (96)
by Emily Dickinson
My life has been the poem I would have writ
by Henry David Thoreau
O Me! O Life!
by Walt Whitman
O, Gather Me the Rose
by William Ernest Henley
Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.
by Noah Eli Gordon
Song of Myself, III
by Walt Whitman, read by Lucille Clifton
Song to Celia
by Ben Jonson
Thanatopsis
by William Cullen Bryant
the gate
by Tadeusz Różewicz
The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
To His Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell
To Rosa
by Abraham Lincoln
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
by Robert Herrick
Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam
by Ernest Dowson
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths
by Philip James Bailey
When I consider every thing that grows (Sonnet 15)
by William Shakespeare
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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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