VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Jonathan Bracker

Techniques Used In Therapy

Now that he no longer goes

To therapists, Kenneth 

Has counted up and found 

His totaled thirteen.

Of these, five had – after he was hooked,

Or nearly so – asked him a question

Which, when first he heard it, surprised: 

“What are you getting from your misery?”

It took him awhile to see that, although they

Had each learned in training

To ask that question, it made sense.

He got it: as long as he believed

He saw himself as victim, there was the possibility,

Perhaps, of receiving attention, sympathy, pity, 

And “I understand where you are coming from.” 

Why, some of the therapists seemed to find 

What he relayed of his childhood, interesting!

Plus, it gave him somewhere to go

Each week for fifty minutes, same chair to sit in – 

So that for as long as he could afford it, why not?

But his thirteenth therapist told him

Something unusual.  She remarked one Saturday in March

That Kenneth was handsome.  And the way

She put it did not sound at all unprofessional,

It sounded simply true. Kenneth did like his profile.

Although he never actually studied his face in a mirror;

He believed it was not, taking all of its features

Into consideration, a bad face.  The way he stood up tall

He was proud of.  And the way he spoke

In a soft but manly voice, he felt good about.

Plus his hands: he had long thought they were those

Of a sensitive person.  Two sessions later, Kenneth

Quit. He is not sorry he did.  He is managing

Fairly well, and realizes he is.  And he never tells 

Anyone not to go to a therapist, for a therapist

May at some point state what a client needs to hear.

Short-term Therapy

As Peter recalls it, the therapist queried “What do you need?”

And “What do you want?” – to which Peter answered

After disturbing moments of silence

“I don’t know that I can answer those questions.  

I never asked to be born, so maybe . . .

I do not need anything and, as for wanting, I really

Am not sure how to respond to that.”

The therapist bristled. Rather short, somewhat overweight,

Slightly moon-faced with hair in bangs, she became excited

Like a hunting dog shaking water off its coat and tail, 

And “Well,” she almost exploded, “I don’t know about you —

But as for me I definitely need, and want, a useful occupation 

Which pays well, with benefits; a roomy house with front yard

And back garden; a partner I love who adores me in return;

Two, or possibly three, well-behaved children” and – stopping

Briefly to consider – “a Siamese cat. Female.”

By this, he was much distressed

Though he realized she might have been using a technique. But one more session – and Peter was out of there

The Orange Smile

One advantage of being a bachelor

Of a certain age

Is that in the morning when Byron slices

An orange, to eat it 

As the beginning of breakfast,

He can slice it with a sturdy knife

Carefully, slowly, in order that the result

Will be equal segments neither too large

Nor too small.  Byron enjoys doing that.

Then he may, having given it

No previous thought, do something

He has done before: pick up

A slice, simply open wide enough his mouth,

Position the crescent, rind-side out,

And let his upper and lower lip

Present it to the world

As a childish joke, a way of expressing

A lively attitude.  Not childish, “childlike.”

In Old Age

When he was a boy, Stephen

Got good grades for “comportment.”

He begged to remain after three o’clock

To wipe the blackboard clean.

Happy to go outside

To knock dusty erasers against a tree,

Stephen pleased the teachers, if not

His fellow classmates. 

Now that he is old, he increasingly

Desires to play truant from school

And not get caught.  

But he wants

To be able to return if he wishes to.

Like a restless child confined to his desk,

Again and again he looks out the window.

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