blue sperm whale

His patient brings in a dream,

to infiltrate his own:

I’m about five, I’m on a windy beach

dragging at the sand with my hands,

when suddenly, I bring into view

the rubbery brow of some long-submerged ocean beast.

My fingernails keep clawing, clawing

aching from the pressure,

till after what feels like hours

I unearth its entire body:

A blue sperm whale.

Is it alive?

 

Cautiously, he interprets

her painful struggle to expose

yet somehow contain an old Oedipal menace.

Now, after five years on his taut leather couch,

on a morning in late April,

she sits up and confesses, I love you.

 

Other images she shared

speed through his mind:

her mother’s horrified scream

when she walked in on them

and her father urgently covered his naked wife,

vague memories of the thrashing that followed,

her back and neck lashed

with the pain of barbed ocean waves

and a terrible excitement.

Now, crowning up through the sand

shamelessly naked and blue,

this spent beast from the sea

and more, I love you.

 

He recalls that her dreams are often

mined with fish-hooks. Here too,

Each time I try to free their grips

they snare and bite at my fingers.

Mentors from his training

circle like pilot fish,

offering a school of evasive replies

from a feeble “I too have feelings for you,”

to a simple, suspect “Thank you,”

as if he were gaining, no, maintaining

an upper hand, as in the lament:

The patient has a vantage point,

the therapist an advantage point.

 

I love you too, trips off his lips

because of the truth,

because the risk of losing his licence

seems banal against her gallery of ocean images.

And though he knows she has been raped

and repeatedly mistreated, this therapist

(The Rapist, she nicknamed a doctor from her past),

he rises from his chair as she rises from his couch

for a long silent hug.

 

Later he tells a frowning colleague

who specializes in physician abuse,

“Hugging a female patient is never sexual

for me; it only happens from the waist up.”

 

But even as he defends his stance

he senses the stirring head of a blue sperm whale

desperate to free itself from the sand.

A nearby buoy shines bright as a cenotaph.

Stretched across the excavated pit

where once a whale tried to surface,

he grieves what little remains, lines of tiny barbs

glistening, twitching in the ocean breeze,

painted with freshly drawn blood.

Published online October 01 2004.


Day Jobs, Night Shifts cover image

This piece was published in ‘Day Jobs, Night Shifts,’ the Fall 2004 issue of CV2.

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