TO FOUR PSYCHOANALYSTS by Barry Tebb
Richard Chessick, John Gedo, James Grotstein and Vamik Voltan
What darknesses have you lit up for me
What depths of infinite space plumbed
With your finely honed probes
What days of unending distress lightened
With your wisdom, skills and jouissance?
Conquistadores of the unconscious
For three decades how often have I come to you
And from your teachings gathered the manna
Of meaning eluding me alone in my northern eyrie?
Chance or God’s guidance – being a poet I chose the latter –
Brought me to dip my ankle like an amah’s blessing
Into the Holy Ganges of prelude and grosse fuge
Of ego and unconscious, wandering alone
In uncharted waters and faltering
Until I raised my hand and found it grasped
By your firm fingers pulling inexorably shoreward.
Did I know, how could I know, madness
Would descend on my family, first a sad grandfather
Who had wrought destruction on three generations
Including our children’s?
I locked with the horns of madness,
Trusted my learning, won from you at whose feet I sat
Alone and in spirit; yet not once did you let me down,
In ward rounds, staying on after the other visitors –
How few and lost – had gone, chatting to a charge nurse
While together we made our case
To the well meaning but unenlightened psychiatrist,
Chair of the department no less, grumbling good-naturedly
At our fumbling formulations of splitting as a diagnostic aid.
When Cyril’s nightmare vision of me in a white coat
Leading a posse of nurses chasing him round his flat
With a flotilla of ambulances on witches’ brooms
Bringing his psychotic core to the fore and
The departmental chairman finally signing the form.
Cyril discharged on Largactil survived two years
To die on a dual carriageway ‘high on morphine’
And I learned healing is caring as much as knowing,
The slow hard lesson of a lifetime, the concentration
Of a chess master, the footwork of a dancer,
The patience of a scholar and a saint’s humility,
While I have only a poet’s quickness, a journalist’s
Ability to speed-read and the clumsiness
Of a circus clown.