Mimi Herman, The Visualizing Mind Has No Word for No

Mimi Herman

Try not to think of a banana.

Whatever you do, do not imagine a banana
with its greeny-yellow peel
and firm flesh.

Or one that has succumbed
to brown spots and a certain laxness of texture.

Please, under no circumstances,
imagine a banana, a single banana
on your kitchen counter.

Where there is also, coincidentally, not
a piece of chocolate cake, thick with frosting,
the last piece of chocolate cake, as alluring
as a showgirl leaning against the backstage door
asking if you can give her a lift.

Say to yourself, I will not eat that piece of chocolate cake,
that last piece. I don’t need it.
And as soon as you’ve opened your mouth, it’s gone,
startling you with the swiftness
with which each bite leaps onto the fork and is conveyed
to your mouth, to descend down some long dark road
that leads directly to your hips,
where it will take up residence for a good long time

because morning after morning you will remind
yourself not to sleep in, and will miss the gym,
which is probably not a bad idea
since it gives you more time to tell your children
not to touch the stove and to get out the salve
that you’ll surely need.

Author’s Comment: A number of years ago, I taught at a girls’ boarding school. One of our guest speakers was a visualization expert who worked with Olympic athletes. I have an uneasy relationship with anything that falls into the category I call “groovy,” which includes crystals, visualization and some forms of yoga. I’m simultaneously drawn to them and profoundly cynical about them. But this made sense to me, and has become the basis of almost everything I do, particularly the way I teach children. You can’t not think something. You can only think something else in its place. And so I do.

4 thoughts on “Mimi Herman, The Visualizing Mind Has No Word for No

  1. I love the self-consciousness of this one. Imperative, but not didactic, poems are pretty rare, especially ones as enjoyable and insightful as this one. The best way to get someone to do something is to tell them not to. It’s no wonder that tree in Eden was such a problem.

  2. I can relate to this poem. Right now, I’m visualizing a Schwann’s microwave brownie in my freezer that’s calling my name. I tell myself I don’t need it, but it will eventually meet the same fate as that piece of chocolate cake, and I won’t even think about the banana lying in the fruit basket on the kitchen table.

    Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
    We Shall Overcome
    How to Build a Better Mousetrap:
    Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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