To have and to hold

You can have everything as long as you keep your eyes shut. I’ve been practicing this with horses, with hats, with consumer electronics, with money, with vacations, with specialty cheeses, with weapons of mass destruction. I hear them gather, humming & purposeful, like sex toys or the avatars of deities in which I don’t fully believe.

I start the way an oyster does, mulling over a mustard seed of lust. But it isn’t a seed, is it? It’s a worry bead, a tumor: its growth is by simple addition, & contains no taint of metamorphosis. I conjure, I cadger, I cajole these prodigies of the pituitary gland into being my body doubles & starring in the movie of my life while I sleep.

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For Read Write Poem (an ambiguous image prompt)

19 Comments


  1. Wow. I actually screwed up the title on the first version of this post (“The have and to hold”). How careless is that?

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  2. this is beautiful: seed of lust & worry bead. and set up so amazingly by the first line — a temptation — you can have everything as long as …

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    1. Thanks. I wrote that line a day earlier and kept coming back to look at it, studying it from all angles to see where it might want to go.

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  3. “You can have everything as long as you keep your eyes shut.” My husband, Buck, lives with an increasingly severe hearing impairment, but has a fasciating adaptation that allows him to enjoy music. Only recently, he discovered a “frequency” (that’s the way I think of it) that allows him to hear beautiful music piped into his head. He hears the Navy choir and the New York Philharmonic, mainly. The first time he told me this, I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. This music is a great source of relaxation and pleasure to him. (Note: with his digital hearing aids, he can hear when I play the piano, because there are no competing sounds and it is only one instrument, but concerts, discerning lyrics, or listening to the radio is a garble of unintelligible sound that is tension-producing rather than relaxing for him, so the music in his head is a fabulous development.)

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    1. Wow, I’m so sorry to hear this. Losing my hearing is one of my greatest fears, second only to losing my mind. I would much sooner give up my eyesight. So Buck has my full sympathy.

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  4. Dave,

    This is very strong.

    “You can have everything as long as you keep your eyes shut.”

    is a great line, but you underscore it with your banal and appropriate follow up:

    “I’ve been practicing this with horses, with hats, with consumer electronics, with money, with vacations, with specialty cheeses, with weapons of mass destruction.”

    Such a wonderfully arbitrary list.

    “I hear them gather, humming & purposeful, like sex toys or the avatars of deities in which I don’t fully believe.”

    Another great comparison.

    “I start the way an oyster does, mulling over a mustard seed of lust. But it isn’t a seed, is it? It’s a worry bead, a tumor: its growth is by simple addition, & contains no taint of metamorphosis.”

    Again, great comparison, pearl to a tumor?!

    “I conjure, I cadger, I cajole these prodigies of the pituitary gland into being my body doubles & starring in the movie of my life while I sleep.”

    This is terrific.

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    1. David – I am honored by your attentive reading of this poem. I think I’m beginning to like it a little myself, now!

      Ed Abbey got me thinking years ago about the different metaphors we use for growth with his line about economic “growth”: “Unlimited growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” That’s the background for my insight about pearls and tumors.

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  5. “humming & purposeful, like sex toys or the avatars of deities in which I don’t fully believe” You must have an amazing dream world.

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    1. Most of the time I forget my dreams on waking, then spend the rest of the day trying to recapture them on the page. So I don’t know if they’re really that amazing, or just seem so in the re-imagining. (But then, that’s true of non-dreaming life, too.)

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  6. humming & purposeful, like sex toys or the avatars of deities in which I don’t fully believe.

    Now which is it you don’t fully believe in, Dave? The avatars or the sex toys? ;)

    Even without as lengthy a catalog as Whitman or Ginsberg uses, there is a definite Whitmanesque character to your writing. The all-containing self/ self as coterminous with the totality…

    David Moolten’s already pulled it apart wonderfully. I concur. Hear, hear!!

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    1. Thanks for the generous words, Paul. I don’t know how influenced I’ve been by Whitman, but I guess throwing sex toys in alongside weapons of mass destruction and Indian gods is the sort of thing Whitman would’ve done, isn’t it?

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  7. There was so much to this and so many perfect thoughts it really blew me away…on the surface it seems like you are talking about dreaming (by keeping your eyes shut) but then it dawns that no…by being oblivious to what is right and wrong…so good!

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  8. it plays well “keep your eyes shut” -live in a dreamy land and/or decide to ignore the wrongs so you can have.”conjure, cadger, cajole” what a powerful combination of words.Need I to add the way “to hold” plays -to hold onto, to hold a dream, to hold responsibility…

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    1. Thanks, Ana. Needless to say alliteration and rhythm guided many of my word choices here; thought was very much subservient to sound. I’m pleased you all got so much out of the piece.

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  9. I read it first for the sounds, well — actually the first line got me. (I’m working with a severely vision-impaired child this year, but that’s a whole nuther story.) anyway, the sounds and images work like a dream, a rush of things that almost get past you.

    then I re-read a few times and now I’m wondering: maybe it’s dreams — unrealized dreams? — that fester and grow in us, becoming tumors in our real-world bodies.

    or maybe not.

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    1. Hi angie – thanks for the attentive reading. I kind of hestitate to say what I thought the poem meant, as that might close off equally valid possibilities for some readers who don’t know enough to ignore the author. :)

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