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.