What You Can’t Have

By (author): Michael V. Smith

What You Can’t Have is a candid exploration of sex, sexuality, and sexualities.

Michael V. Smith explores desire, looking at the difference between wants and needs in this collection of poems about longing to belong and acceptance.

Some of the poems are concerned with adolescent awareness of sexuality and self while others are concerned with gender transgression. All examine the limits of our cultural norms in a collection that is carnal, corporeally driven, and relishes in the body. Smith uses language that is plain-spoken, artful and yet undecorated.


Michael V. Smith

MICHAEL V. SMITH has published six previous books, which include three collections of poetry, a memoir, and two novels. Also an award-winning filmmaker, drag queen, and professor, Smith teaches at UBC Okanagan, in Kelowna, BC, where he lives with his brilliant husband.


“A collection of heartbreaking elegies for thwarted desire and unapologetic denouncements of propriety.” —Xtra!


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Excerpts & Samples ×
Lonely Their mother sits on the porch, so close to their dad in his armchair he feels the night shift each time she swings her hair, tying blue ribbons at the back. The middle sister –Sister Three of Five she calls herself– helps make two bows. The air tastes of cool damp grass, the sun has abandoned the yard. The children want to stand here, barefoot on the floorboards, relaxed, all their skin relaxed and open to the sounds of the woods. They each would like to be the one who asks the question which keeps their parents home tonight, their father talking the sun back over the trees. Intellect She is the dark child who refuses to bathe, who wears the same dress worn through, her hair pulled back days later only because her mother pins it better than she cares. She eats what she can carry to the woods, sleeps next to the open window when she’s home. One night her mother woke to her shadow beyond the doorframe, walking away, her daughter, the girl with ideas. Distance The child in the window seems as thin as his breath fogging the glass. The world disappears with a sigh from his small lungs as he waits for the mist to uncloud the street below. The child is more patient than the man watching from the sidewalk who wants the boy to hurry up & wipe the glass. They are alone together the boy curled on his windowsill the man growing cold outside, his feet damp from the walk & the freezing snow. In the next room a woman is asleep. She dreams a husband who wants back in, a boy so frail these days she doesn’t dare.

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84 Pages
9in * 6in * .22in


April 30, 2005


Signature Editions



Book Subjects:

POETRY / Canadian

Featured In:

Pride Reads



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