I've been a practicing psychoanalyst since l984 and have been publishing case studies that read like short stories for years in places like The Psychoanalytic Review and The Partisan Review. For the past few years I've been meaning to publish a jargon-free book for the general public: The Man In The BMW and Other Psychoanalytic Stories but each time I'm ready to tie them all together I get waylaid by theater. Or a new book of poems. Finally my wife, Linda, and I are going to finish the book of ten "stories." If you're interested you can find the Man In The BMW on Google.
He smacks the snow out of his hair: "Respect!"
His boots unclasped and flapping like a child's,
He kicks back in the hall to wipe them off.
"Six Fahrenheit!" Into his hand he coughs.
Then with a giant step he's in, erect.
"Plumber to play your pipes," he says and winks.
He played a flute once "that would drive girls wild."
"So what's wrong this time with your kitchen sink?"
"The toilet bowl won't work. I think it's stuffed.
"Use it for garbage, what do you expect?"
Before I can think of how to tease him back,
He drops down to his knees, a candle snuffed.
I put a record on: Heifetz playing Brahms.
He exits from the bathroom, his eyes closed,
Hands closed, a choir boy humming psalms.
When the record ends, he blinks his dream away.
"You should have heard the way I used to play,"
He says and shakes his head until he smacks
His thigh to stop. "I used to practice five
Hours a day. At fourteen ... Never mind."
He looks at his hand. "Thank God I'm alive."
I follow him in. He twists a monkey-wrench
In mock-flourish up in the air, then draws
It hard against a pipe like a fiddle-bow,
Then holds his nose: the playing or the stench?
He answers my look: "This was the cause."
He shows his hand -- deformed a little, scarred.
"The War. Poland. I used to practice hard.
When neighbors peered in the window, how I posed.
What do you do?
"Poems, novels, plays."
"Garbage, shit, they mix shit with art these days.
I used to see a movie or a show,
But now there's only violence, garbage, rape.
Who listens to Heifetz? Does anyone know
These days, a way to help you feel? Or escape?"
With a thin pipe-like tool he cranks, he finds
My toothbrush in the bowl. I look contrite.
"Look what you lost," he says. I nod, "Right, right."
He doesn't let me help him clean our mess.
I smile to let him see my helplessness.
"Who thought," he mumbles, "when I had my band ...?"
He puts away his tools. "Thanks," he says "for that,"
Pointing to Heifetz, reaching for a hat
He doesn't have to tip. "If you want to flush,"
He says, "Don't fiddle with your brush,"
Then sees a subtler joke in what he's said,
Starts to extend, pulls back a dirty hand,
Then leaves backing out shaking, shaking his head.
from New and Selected Poems (1998)
© 2017 Frederick Feirstein
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