Desperation Poems: 371 / 500

First Meeting With A Psychiatrist

Rating: 5.0

It seemed a third-rate performance
of an actor well used to the role,
the salutary greetings linked in
a single-line monotone:

He waited, swaying to and fro,
in his vinyl-covered chair,
puffing on a fat cigar -
the smoke expertly curled
by his tongue into rich rings
of self-aggrandisement.

It was my cue.

I muttered nervously
about my husband's inane cruelties,
his unpredictable outbursts of violence,
his bizarre ideas, the delusions,
he talking aloud in the shower alone,
and how I lived in fear of the threats
to kill us all.

“My children – how can I protect them? ”

I spoke in desperation
to the bald shiny dome of his head
bent over a notebook,
as his pen flowed
and his hand ran on
in the writing of copious notes,
never once looking up.

My mind drifted away,
to a Mandingo town
along with a large throng
of other women, assembled at nightfall,
being chased by men.

I was singled out as the offender,
stripped naked, tied to a post,
and as the rod of Mumbo scourged me
I heard shouts of derision,
hideous noises filling the cool, dusty air-
it was a ritual
in veneration
of a grotestque idol,
the shrieks of Mumbo-Jummery
buzzing in my ears
like the droning
of trapped insects.

His false cough brought me back from Africa
Into this room where we sat.
It seemed to me
his eyes were raping me,
willing me to wantonless veneration.

I noted a couch, cold, clean and vacant,
like a morgue drawer
waiting for an occupant.

My performance was over, his now began,
it started with a dissertation of my ills
in a spate of unmistakable mummery;
high-sounding words resonated in the air,
and the session ended as it had begun,
words linked in a single-line monotone:

A prescription was thrust in my hand
as he helped me up and led me out -
the door slammed behind me,
rude in its definition.

Shaking, I tore the paper up
And scattered it on the floor.

Soon night would cast its wand
changing me into a child
aghast in the dark,
tiny hands contracted to shiny cones,
clutching the bed sheets in fear -

waiting for the boogey-man to appear.

(Baie d’Urfé, Québec

Frank Avon 19 January 2015

You are perhaps the most deft poet I have encountered on PH. Your works reads as the work of an polished professional (which you must be) . I look forward to reading more of your work.

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Dr Kamran Haider 17 October 2008

Truly an obscured reality, exposing the ambivalence on the part of the Psychiatric patient and emotional flattening on the part of the Psychiatrist. Being a Physician and Psychiatry Resident, I should endorse; what Philippa has so remarkably expressed in this poem. We Psychiatrist may become so cold and indifferent over the time to the misery of those extraordinary minds, which deserves so much empathy. And this is also true with population at large, as so called healthy and normal minds most of the times treat extraordinary or popularly known as abnormal or insane minds with indifference. So sad that we proudly pronounce ourselves humans, but we are deluding as we have lost humanity. Great work done by Philippa Lane. Thanks a lot.

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Max Reif 16 July 2005

Hi, Philippa, I found this poem, written many years before the other I've read of yours, to resound with the same power. I feel you were simply describing your experience, not stereotyping a psychiatrist. Perhaps this psychiatrist was stereotyping himself. You have a facility for expressing raw emotions in powerful lines and images!

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Poetry Hound 16 March 2005

I liked the originality of the topic and the switch to Africa and back again. However, I think psychiatrists are an easy target and you're description of this one fits the fairly common stereotype. Sounds like you walked in with a skeptical attitude and walked out with about what you expected to get.

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Michael Shepherd 16 March 2005

I'm glad you were still around to put the date in, Philippa! ! No cure, no fee? Thanks!

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