Psychotherapy

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Pain gnaws into man,
lacerating with its claws.
It’s deposited like salt
somewhere between the vertebrae.

Shout something to the crowd?
That’s a lot of respect for cattle.
Confess to a priest?
Man doesn’t believe in God.

Confess to the wife?
A pain inscrutable for her.
Confess to the country?
That’s so immense it terrifies.

And the psychiatrist arrives
with a musketeer beard,
warmly phlegmatic,
faintly smelling of vodka.

And though you tear your hair-
he will listen for two hours
to your woes and vexations,
and all for two bills.

Afterward he goes on foot
through grimy lanes,
and under his tongue lays
a tranquilizer.

There’s a trick to attentiveness:
not the least merit in it,
and he himself longs for a fellow
psychiatrist-a friend for hire.

1978
Translated by Albert C. Todd

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