IN THE COMPANY OF SUFFERERS
My analyst says I’m addicted to suffering,
says we learn our worth and I learned
I deserve to suffer. I was schooled by my mother
whose body has been a reliquary for pain.
And by Grandma who fed on the fruit of betrayal,
her words often flavored with its bitterness.
It’s not that I want the suffering. I’ve been in therapy,
after all. Then again, therapy makes you suffer,
forces you to rehash the yeast of suffering,
like the starter for sourdough. No consolation
others who’ve been analyzed longer than I
still suffer, trying to assign reason to it—
measuring fairness and purpose in the dark.
Victor Frankel, existentialist sufferer says
we discover meaning by doing a deed,
finding value. . . and by suffering. Woody Allen,
Sisyphus of sufferers says, to love is to suffer.
To avoid suffering, one must not love.
But then one suffers from not loving.
Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love
is to suffer. I say suffering is a boulder
you carry on your back. At night you plop it
onto your chest, haul it around in your dreams,
and wake exhausted. My analyst says I can’t take
a compliment. That I put up a wall. Tells me
suffering becomes an expectation we trust
since we gravitate toward the familiar. Asks
what’s with the all-black wardrobe?
Some wear suffering as a badge, rationalize
their connection with the greats:
Van Gogh, Poe, Beethoven, Miró.
But I’ve made progress—avoiding
tearful TV ads to save sad-eyed puppies,
mewing litters of kittens. Reminds me
of the guy who got my Bassett Hound
so drunk she died—in my arms.
All these years later it still pains me
to think of her. I’m sure the therapist
is right when she tells me
I’m on empathy overload. Why else
make excuses for emotional vampires—
psychopaths, sociopaths, soul-gobbling
narcissists? Perhaps Proust—prolific
sufferer who worked in a sunless studio,
days on end, without sleep,
had it figured out when he wrote,
We are healed by a suffering
only by experiencing it in full.
IT COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE
During a winter downpour
my rain-soaked husband says,
We’re lucky, this could have been
a foot of snow! When I toss popcorn at him
and an errant seed hits his forehead, he shouts,
You could have hit me in the eye!
Which, in his mind plays out as
then I’d lose my eye and have to replace it
with a glass one that, while napping might be
pilfered by a crow, since they’re attracted
to shiny objects. The bird might drop the slippery
orb midflight into a circle of kids playing
keepsies marbles, even though, I’d guess
kids play with virtual marbles these days.
But, for the few who still like the heft
and smoothness of real objects, the satisfying click
of marbles, much like the sound of a male katydid
during mating season, it would be hard to resist
my glass eye, resembling rare handmade
German marbles that sell for $40,000, or the prized
“snotty” agate with its veined, clouded interior a pirate
would deem a treasure—one he could trade
for a wooden leg, like Hector Barbosa’s in Pirates
of the Caribbean or Ahab’s whalebone leg
in Moby Dick, which he’d need after he slips
on deck during a torrential downpour that could have
been a lot worse, were it snow.