Posted in Of Musicals

Guest Poet: Kate Bush “Can I Have It All?”

It’s mid-April already, and I am yet to share a guest poem with you. It’s not like I haven’t been looking for specific poems by well-known, and not as well-known, poets to share. In fact, there are too many that I feel excited to talk about. Today, the Kate Bush fanatic in me just decided to share with you – a piece that may not be familiar to you.

“Suspended in Gaffa”

First of all, the title. Gaffa, as Kate Bush has explained, is simply her self-made derivative of the word – gaffer, as in gaffer tape, that is used in cinema and photography. The verses of the lyric deal with various methods in which men and women try to reach God, or spiritual salvation. The character she plays in this song describes in the chorus the moment when she actually sees God. Her actions of feeling awed, a lightness of being and self-annihilation at that moment, a moment that is the most elusive and desirable for mankind in all of history, is followed by the realization that she is still not ready for it. Here’s the first pre-chorus and chorus:

But they’ve told us
Unless we can prove
That we’re doing it,
We can’t have it all.
We can’t have it all.

“I caught a glimpse of a god, all shining and bright.”

Suddenly my feet are feet of mud.
It all goes slo-mo.
I don’t know why I’m crying.
Am I suspended in Gaffa?
Not until I’m ready for you,
Not until I’m ready for you
Can I have it all.

I find this central image very intriguing. Though it is a modern, unstudied description, it is very poetic. Through the verses, Bush discusses various methods and philosophical ideas that have served as how-to’s for reaching spiritual enlightenment. She doesn’t dismiss any of them, but in her part-comedic, part-genuine appeal for reaching there, both through the verses and her choral moment of rapture, she is more interested in the two questions,

“Am I doing it?
Can I have it all now?”

“Can I have it all?” is repeated throughout the lyric, and especially in this second pre-chorus,

But sometimes it’s hard
To know if I’m doing it right.
Can I have it all?
Can I have it all now?
We can’t have it all.

This describes the spiritual tussle of getting there, which makes the chorus even more interesting because even after getting a glimpse, she still asks this same question. Perhaps, it implies never being ready, never having it all. Perhaps, it implies the tenuous nature of the otherwise sturdy, earthly gaffer tape, because though you may use it in film, you wouldn’t necessarily like to be left suspended from it. And maybe, that is exactly what meeting with the most desirable is – hanging from a tenuous tape, everything going slo-mo, feet turning to mud, eyes smarting without even being aware of it, a feeling of complete helplessness, freedom from everything binding, and yet feeling afraid at this vulnerability. Even if you have it all, you still won’t be ready.

If I ever get to meet Kate Bush (like her long-time fans, I’m getting used to the idea of how rare she is with sharing her work and her presence), I’d probably feel “Suspended in Gaffa” myself. It would be like shadow meeting Light, because I’d never be ready for her completely. It will take the rest of my life and more, if possible, to find in myself all that I find in her work – love, serenity, wonder, peace, humour, and so much more. I know I can’t have it all Kate, but you’ve given me so much more.

Click here for complete lyrics.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

4 thoughts on “Guest Poet: Kate Bush “Can I Have It All?”

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