The Analyst

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The Analyst
128 pages; W. W. Norton & Company
When John Stuart Mill wrote “eloquence is heard; poetry is overheard,” he could have been describing one of the bittersweet pleasures of Molly Peacock’s The Analyst. Most of the volume’s poems are addressed to “you,” Peacock’s therapist of 37 years, who at age 77 has a stroke that leaves a “blast hole” in her memory and renders her unable to see patients. Peacock calculates that she has received 1,294 hours of “paid love” in the course of her therapy, though in a poem titled “The Pottery Jar” she writes: “Thank you for addressing me as ‘honey.’ / Thank you for carrying me when I had no money.”      

In the aftermath of the stroke, their relationship, already unconventional for a doctor and a patient (they dined out together; the analyst touched Peacock’s hand during a session as she cried), evolves further as Peacock visits the therapist at her home. The reader projects herself into this most private dynamic, whose boundaries—“thin / blue lines on a gray pottery jar”—have all but disappeared.      

Peacock acknowledges that the desire to be heard is among a human’s most basic needs, but now she learns that the experience is equally meaningful to the listener. “I want / you to know,” the analyst tells Peacock after her stroke, “how much I / care about you.”      

Peacock brings us into the consulting room with her— first supine on the couch, then free to sit up and face the analyst, not as a patient but as one person to another. That move enables us to accept neutrally, as would a therapist, whatever comes to mind, to pull up a chair, “listen, question, watch things heal.”      
— Nuar Alsadir