What You Cannot Have (A List)

 
 

E. 2nd st.

 
 

The word you seek, the weird one, the one you never use?

You know the one.  It describes the thing.  That does that… thing. 

Well, you cannot have it.
 
 

The just-the-right-color orange wool sweater with the oversized cable pattern that some yahoo stole out of the classroom five minutes after you forgot you left it under your chair twenty-five years ago?

Dumb gal stuffed it in her bag the minute you walked away?  Yeah, you cannot have that sweater.
 
 

A song you heard once on the radio that far back summer?

The song whose name you never knew?

You know— that tune that haunts your dishwashing hours in snatches and bits and threads? 

You cannot have it.  Not right now.

(In the deep blue hour of two a.m, when you roll awake from a good, dead sleep— BAM!—  there’s the whole song.  Want it now?)
 
 

If you are tall, you cannot be short.

If you are short, you cannot become tall. 

I am sorry, but you cannot have it.
 
 

No matter how hard you squish up your face and wish, you will never spontaneous molt all of your brown hair one night and turn white water rapids blonde.

Nope. Cannot ever have it.
 
 

An invisible jet with custom oxblood leather upholstery and a magical homemade soup making machine? 

Wonder Woman has it already. 

You!  Cannot!  Have!  It!

 
 
 

[NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY]

 
 
 

The minutes tumble from your arms like a dropped load of books in a wild wind. 

As much as you struggle and as much as you stride to grab for each volume, you will not snatch them minutes back, my darlin’.

You’re not getting this second back either.  Or this one.  Zip!  There it goes!

Whoops.  There goes another one!  Grab that second over there—

Oh wait, that’s right!  You cannot have it.
 
 

Today’s lotto numbers:  The square root of five divided by the negative number of two even slices of onion equals— you cannot have it.
 
 

That suit that made your shoulders look broad and your waist fighting trim? The cleaners destroyed it. You cannot have it. Do you want a cookie?
 
 

Here’s what you have:

You have this page in front of you, glowing.

You have this moment.

You have you— and you are a lot of you.

 
 
Here’s what I can give you:

I can give you my good wishes.

I can give you a smile.  (You can take that with you for the rest of the day!)

I can give you a reminder that good things are coming your way all the time.

 
 
And I can give you this, right here—

You have my sincere attention.

Yeah, you can have that. You have it right now.

 
 

Ave A + E. 7 st.

 
 

50 thoughts on “What You Cannot Have (A List)

  1. OH, MY! A bluebird just flew by my window(s program). The minutes tumble from your arms like a dropped load of books in a wild wind. This piece is extraordinary. It grabs me rigtht where i live this morning.

    Last night Shepherd of the Hill hosted a meeting to organize churches to become housing sites for homeless families. I could hear the speaker. Went to my office. Read the Chaska Herald (it comes out on Thursday). Looked at the obituaries. “Richard Filpula!t” Complete shock. He was here. Now he’s not. I didn’t know he was sick. I didn’t know he was in hospitce care. Now the moment and the person are gone. I can’t have it. I made calls to some parishioners.in ill-health. They had taken turns for the worse – one of them completely disoriented, tearing out tubes in the hospital, moved closer to the nursing station.

    “As much as you struggle and as much as you stride to grab for each volume, you will not snatch them minutes back, my darlin’. You’re not getting this second back either. Or this one. Zip! There it goes! Whoops. There goes another one! Grab that second over there—
    Oh wait, that’s right! You cannot have it.”

    Here’s what you have:

    You have this page in front of you, glowing.

    You have this moment.

    You have you— and you are a lot of you.

    Here’s what I can give you:

    I can give you my good wishes.

    I can give you a smile. (You can take that with you for the rest of the day!)

    I can give you a reminder that good things are coming your way all the time.

    And I can give you this, right here—

    You have my sincere attention.

    Yeah, you can have that. You have it right now.

    You bring me to ttears. As Rosevelt Greer and Marlo Thomas used to sing on Sesame Street when my sons were young, Tears are GOOD. When they fall, I know I’m very, very alive and in the moment.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Gordon. I had no idea I was going to write this list today. I had no idea that it was needed by so many people. (I’ve had record visitors this morning. Please give me a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor and put it back on my face.)

      Here’s what I know— I wrote it. I revised it. I edited it. I laid it out. I took a breath and I posted it. I had no idea I was walking around with this list on my person earlier this week.

      What do you do in those moments when so much leaves before you’re ready for it to go? Do you grab at the people you miss? Or do you let them go and give them all your love as they go on their way? You cannot have those moments anymore.

      Your comment brought me to tears. I feel so humbled by the bigness of your world and your willingness to share it here.

      Here’s what I am doing: I’m going to sit here for a second. I’m going to think about the homeless committee. I’m going to think about Richard Filpula. I’m going to think about your parishioners. I’m going to think about Adrienne Rich. And then— I am going to send every good wish I have out in the world.

      Gordon— you have a gift for reminding me of the essentials. I’m so glad to sit here and be with you in this alive moment.

      Like

    2. Tears flowing here. I’m on my way to the hospital where the person hospitalized yesterday (86 years old) is so disoriented by the morphine and other pain meds that they put him in a straitjacket at 1:00 a.m. I don’t know whether he’ll know me or be able to comprehend or receive consolation. All I can do is be there with him,,,and his poor, helpless wife…in this moment. Somewhere in this moment there is God and there is grace. I’ll start with that assumption, grit my teeth, and do what I can. More often than not, that’s the limit of what I can do. Just being there is what’s called for, it seems. No solutions. Just presence.

      Like

    3. I know it isn’t much, but while you are there in the hospital, my thoughts will be with you, with the person who is ill, with that person’s wife, and with the nurses and doctors and staff that are trying to keep him safe and comfortable right now.

      And I’m certain that anyone who reads the comments here will stop and take a moment just to be present with you, the man who is ill, and his wife as well.

      The internet is full of grace this morning. I can feel it. Honestly.

      Like

    4. I need to reply again before leaving for the hospital to say what I should have and would have said if i were not distracted. This piece is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good, Courtenay. It came up from your soul. Congratulations. You deserve salutes all the way around. No surprise that it’s drawing so much attention. Did you see that I had re-posted it this morning? People love it.

      Like

    5. Gordon— only you would stop to take one more second to say such a wonderful thing. No wonder I’ve been getting so many happy people today on my blog! You’ve been inspiring me to listen closer to my own soul. It turns out my soul is a low whisperer. But I’m still listening with intent.

      My thoughts are with you and yours right now at the hospital.

      Like

    6. Sometimes comments have to get out of their cages. That one did. Again, this piece, like its precedessor, is moving and profound. As for the whisper, “the still small voice” as Hebrew secripture refers to it, is really a barely audible “whisper” in Hebrew. If your voice is soft and hard to hear, that’s the one to listen for, not the noisy voices, the gongs and clanging cymbals. Stay in touch with it, as you’ve been learning to do, and let it happen when it happens.

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    7. Gordon—

      I had completely forgotten about “the still small voice”— (and I didn’t know the original Hebrew translates more closely to a barely audible whisper— that’s so beautiful. Really beautiful.).

      I think I’m going to want to unpack this one further. You’ve tipped an idea in me that I cannot quite grab ahold of yet— I stopped right now mid-sentence to take some notes so I can come back to this at a later date. I need to write about this one, soon— even though I’m not sure what shape it will take yet. I am learning to listen. I am also learning to be patient with what comes to me, gently.

      It’s a different way of writing and working. I think you’re helping me to sort out an undefined layer that I’ve been trying to reach in my work. It has something to do with speaking inward and outward at the same time. Toward the ear— not against it.

      (See what I mean? It’s jumbled, but in there is a thank you that I want to state aloud— Thank you, Gordon!)

      I also saw that the person you visited in the hospital was aware and safe. I’ve been thinking about all of you this afternoon. I’m so pleased to hear that he is in a good place.

      Like

    8. I am glad you came back to share a follow-up here about the man’s condition— I keep thinking of the gospel song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” today. (I heard this gospel standard for the first time four months ago.)

      Today, I have a considerable amount of writing to do. I will be listening for the whisper at the center of all things. I have hope.

      Like

  2. I hope you don’t mind, but I want to copy this and print it out. I love this post and your words – such beautiful, well-fashioned words. This was magical!

    Like

    1. Please do copy and print it out. I would be thrilled! I’m so thrilled that you thought this was well-fashioned and beautiful. (Your compliments just sent me right over the moon. Thank you so, so, so much.)

      Like

  3. so I guess this means I’m never gonna know
    what it’s like to wear a bikini at the beach?

    or hear the actual words my dog is speaking to me
    as he blinks brown eyes and smiles his big smile?

    “Oh wait, that’s right. You cannot have it.”

    Like

    1. Here’s my current theory on bikinis— “The flesh is willing, but the bikini is weak.”

      As for your comment: lovelovelove it. I want to hear what my dogs are saying too. But, I cannot have it.

      I’m sending you the best Friday happy wishes right now!

      Like

  4. I know that tune you’re referring to exactly. It toys with my sanity when I least expect to think about it. You have wonderful insights. I found this post through Snoring Dog Studio reblogging you. Impressive referral to an impressive site.

    Like

    1. My personal feeling is— as long as it’s not “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” I can deal. Oh, dang it! It’s in my head again!

      Being reposted by Snoring Dog Studio was a genuinely amazing surprise this morning! I had never seen “Snoring Dog” before today— I love it!

      Thank you so much for the compliments. I have an inkling I’m going to spend the rest of the day floating somewhere around the ceiling like a pink helium balloon. So, so happy to meet you!

      Like

  5. ah, I kinda sorta stumbled here from Snoring Dog’s place.
    That was, ah, well, ah, I am thinking of a word….. Gees, I guess I will have to read it a few more times cause I am thinking to find a word that goes just a little further down the road from ‘good’ ‘great’ and such. Usually…. I would just say, Wowzers, but that just knockied the usual right outa me. Thanks.

    Like

    1. Your comment helped me unroll my widest smile. “Wowzers” is perfect. And seriously, anyone who runs a blog called “Okjimm’s Eggroll Emporium” gets eighteen billion gold star stickers as far as I am concerned. Dag, that is the coolest!

      I genuinely appreciate the compliments. I am grinning so hard my cheeks hurt a little. Thank you!

      Like

    2. well, you’re welcome and stuff…. but it was really really good… and I have read it a few times. Wish I had written it, Yupperz.

      Like

    3. The pleasure is entirely mine! I really, really appreciate your sentiments. (You really read it a few times? Thank you!)

      Just now, you used another word I haven’t heard in quite some time— yupperz/yuppers! (I always like that word!) Very coooool.

      Like

  6. I clicked “Reply” to thank SDS for reblogging because that’s how I found my way here, but now I’m laughing at the “Reply” prompt.

    Cookies and cupcakes? I think I like it here.

    Like

    1. Even though you ended up here by happenstance, I am so pleased to meet you! Maybe I can talk my husband into making his legendary chocolate dipped coconut macaroons. There’s got to be a way to digitize them!

      Like

  7. This is one of your best lists so far. You regularly surpass yourself, so I added that “so far.”

    You took a bitter truth and made it sweet; and left us with what we can have.

    Like

    1. Thank you so, so much, Yearstricken. I keep a list of future pillow book lists. This list? Was not on my master list. I had no idea I was going to write this one this week. If you think I managed to transform the bitter into the sweet into the real, then I did succeed with this piece— that’s exactly what I was trying to do. And now I am truly, honestly happy. Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

      Like

Hey there, Cupcake! How are ya?

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