You Can’t

Play Chopin’s Polonaise
Like Horowitz you can’t

Say that and not remember
It was my idea you can’t

Eat those kisses you can’t
Leave all the letters

You can’t hide
You can’t forget me

Poem’s first appearance in my journal with my tattered copy of Ueland’s book.

I can’t forgive you
No never

You can’t explain that
Or solve that equation

You can’t know what I’m thinking
You can’t shoot like LeBron James

You can’t trust certain people
Who stand in corners

They can’t be noticed at first
Shadowy they are caught

In the glow of Dante’s Inferno
Where they assumed

They might be trapped forever
They turn their backs

When you enter the room
They eat popcorn noisily

In movie theaters
But I do that you say

Does that mean I can’t be trusted
Not necessarily

Certain traits build on one another
Watch Shaun Livingston on the court
Listen to Martha Argerich play Liszt

About this poem:

This poem started with a riff on “you can’t.” At one point I dedicated it to Siah Armajani, a conceptual artist who created many amazing pieces. Others might have said to him: “You can’t do that.”

As I was working on the poem, I ran across a sports commentator’s YouTube video. “You can’t be LeBron James, but you can be Shaun Livingston,” the commentator said. I’m not a big basketball fan, but I do know that LeBron James is 6’8” and considered to be the best basketball player in the world. I found that Shaun Livingston (6’7”) is highly efficient at mid-range and plays good defense. He may not be the star, but he’s there and can be trusted to help his team.

Likewise Horowitz and Argerich—both are amazing pianists. Horowitz was a great soloist, but watch Martha Argerich play Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major with a full orchestra.

I wanted the poem to have both a dark and a light side. I hope the reader puzzles over who can and can’t be trusted, and also what we can or can’t accomplish, as well as the way the word can’t sometimes comes to dominate our thinking.

___________________

Writing Suggestion:

During the last six-weeks of  our “Joy of Writing” workshop here in Sanibel, Florida, we used Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write as inspiration in our exploration of creativity. “I want to assure you,” she writes, “that no writing is a waste of time–no creative work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding.”

Often we tie our writing to some standard of perfection and forget that by letting our words go out there, then, and only then, can we create something new. Perhaps we place too much weight on the judgment of others, and not enough on the divine spark within us. “Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say,” says Ueland.

So with that in mind, pull out your notebook and let it rip. Trust yourself. Write about your day. Write about what you can or can’t do. Write about the way the light looks coming through your window. Write about sports or music. Go for three pages or ten minutes. Just write. You can write.

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