Jeff Dolven

Want to become a psychoanalyst?

You’ll have to undergo analysis,

and if there are no analysts around

for miles, or if, like Freud was, you’re the first,

you’ll simply have to analyze yourself.

Now: just how widely should this law apply?

With teachers, the question mostly won’t arise.

They’ve all been taught. With parents, we hope, ditto.

Your pilot probably took a plane as a child.

The con man got his start by being conned.

Doctors, of course. And transplant surgeons?

A harder case, but let’s not give up yet:

in training, for example, each could swap

some organ with a willing fellow student,

something expendable, like an appendix

or kidney—kidneys you could even switch,

left one to the right and right to left,

sparing all parties the trouble of rejection.

The patient will wake and hardly feel the difference,

except for sleeping now on the other side.

Don’t operate, however, on yourself.

(Is this where the analogy breaks down?)

Don’t operate on yourself, or anyone

who’s operating, as you work, on you.

The analysts may analyze each other,

but never, says the book, at the same time.

Too much, too much, too much! Or not enough?

It’s good, kissing the top of someone’s head

and, in a different way, kissing a bruise or a scar,

and then there’s kissing someone’s lips with yours.

Jeff Dolven teaches poetry and poetics at Princeton University and is an editor-at-large at Cabinet magazine. *A New English Grammar, his book of poems, is just out from dispersed holdings.
Originally published:
May 10, 2023


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