THE THERAPIST

In just five minutes she gave us our narratives:
you were the smoother-over, the peacemaker,
while I was the perfectionist, and together
we had passed these traits to our daughter,
given her food for her eating disorder.

“Do you want to be right or be happy?”
she asked. “That’s too simple,” I said,
“it doesn’t need to be one or the other.
I feel happy when I’m right and right
when I’m happy. They can go together.”

In just five minutes she gave us our narratives:
you were the smoother-over, the peacemaker,
while I was the perfectionist, and together
we had passed these traits to our daughter,
given her food for her eating disorder.

This was the pattern to be broken,
the second nature that usurped our natures,
but only if we admitted the problem:
that was fifty percent of the cure, the rest
would come from time in her care.

“Do you want to be right or be happy?”
Who doesn’t want to be happy all the time?
Who doesn’t want to believe in that fable?
She said she could fit us with flexible tools,
I thought about hardware. We nodded like fools.

In just five minutes she gave us our narratives:
you were the smoother-over, the peacemaker,
while I was the perfectionist, and together
we had passed these traits to our daughter,
given her food for her eating disorder.

She told us we each had the power to choose
not to let others take over our lives,
then she covered herself by means of disclosure:
“I myself was something of a perfectionist.
I myself was the great smoother-over.”

This was the pattern to be broken,
the second nature that usurped our natures,
but only if we admitted the problem.
She showed us the root and solution.
I squirmed in my seat, a retrograde symptom.

“Imagine you’re old,” she said, “at sixty five.
What then will you think about having been angry
for the best years of your children’s lives?”
I nodded my head while plotting murder,
“I’ll do anything,” I said, “to help my daughter.”

 

Patrick Warner

from The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Poetry
eds. Mark Callanan & James Langer, Breakwater Books, 2013